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A beautiful, floral Argentine malbec with a lovely violet scent, sweet tannins and a well-balanced palate. 2017 was a warm vintage for Argentina and, tasting with winemaker Alejandro Vigil, we found the best malbecs were from the very cool areas; this example has benefitted from 14 months’ ageing to round it out
Product Code: AR3991
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The imposing Bodega Catena Zapata winery, modelled on an ancient truncated Mayan pyramid, is set against a stunning backdrop of vast, open skies and the awe-inspiring Andes. It is in these remarkable high-altitude surroundings in Mendoza that the Catena family has helped to bring Argentine wines critical recognition around the world.Nicolás Catena, who in 2009 became the first person from South America to receive the prestigious Decanter Man of the Year award, always believed that Argentina could produce world-class wines. He realised, after closely studying the effects of altitude on growing conditions, that it was possible to plant vines at high elevation, and use cooler temperatures along with greater sun exposure to ripen grapes whilst preserving natural acidity.Their highest vineyards at Gualtallary are at an impressive 1480m altitude, and were planted with the help of renowned Argentine viticulturist Pedro Marchevsky. Some thought that grapes would simply never ripen here – hail is a big issue, and the vineyards even get snow – however even cabernet sauvignon has thrived. Malbec is particularly good here: Pedro experimented tirelessly with around 100 strains of the grape to find the best examples with smaller berries, good colour and better tannins. He eventually narrowed his selection down to just seven or eight which have been replanted, so these vineyards are now used for their most premium malbec, including some of the fruit for The Society’s Exhibition Malbec.Catena is also known for its pioneering chardonnay production, also grown exceptionally high at 1400m altitude, producing beautifully balanced fruit. Other than Gualtallary, Catena have a superb collection of other vineyards at differing altitudes over 1000m at Lunlunta, Agrelo, Tupungato, Eugenio Bustos and Altamira, where different combinations of soils and altitudes produce a range of varying grape varieties and wine styles. These superbly managed vineyards are at the heart of the company’s success.Nicolás also introduced modern winemaking and viticultural techniques to Argentina including small French oak barrels, drip irrigation, extremely low yields and plant-by-plant selection. His significant investment in research has been a major factor in the quality of wines produced. The chief winemaker at Catena is Alejandro Vigil, a boundless enthusiast who always appears to be doing three things at once. He was previously involved in research at INTA, the state viticultural body, and his combination of impressive knowledge, relentless energy and creative experimentation has helped Catena to push the boundaries of Argentine wine production.The Society’s Exhibition Malbec maintains its consistent finesse because Catena allows us complete freedom from vintage to vintage. Every year we are shown samples of malbec from six to eight sites, and are then able to choose the blend ourselves to ensure we capture the freshness, perfume and spirit of these excellent locations. The blend is then aged for about 14 months in oak.
It may have been making wine since the mid-16th century (and is the fifth-largest wine-producing country), but it is only in the past decade or so that Argentina has shown wine drinkers around the world what it is capable of. Historically, Argentina has had a healthy domestic market, so exports were never the country's top priority. But as consumption at home slowed, more and more wineries have strived to make an impression overseas.Argentina has now established a reputation for top-quality reds, and has attracted its fair share of foreign investment, from the likes of Château Lafite, LVMH (owner of Krug Champagne and Château d'Yquem in Sauternes, among others), and top wine consultant Michel Rolland.The heart of the Argentine wine industry is Mendoza, in the far west of the country, where more than 80% of Argentina's wine is made. Altitude is a great marker of quality, and above 900m the climate is cool enough to produce fine wines. Within Mendoza, sub-regions to look out for include Luján de Cuyo in the Upper Mendoza Valley, and the Uco Valley, to the south-west of the city of Mendoza. One of the strengths of the region is the quantity of old vineyards, planted to a relatively high density. The climate here is semi-desert and vines could not survive on the low levels of rainfall alone. The Huarpe Indians, who were in the area before the arrival of the Spanish, long ago built a sophisticated system of irrigation channels, many of which form the basis for the modern structures. What rain there is has the unhappy habit of falling in February and March and the harvest takes place in late March, so many vineyards are planted on free draining soils to mitigate against the effects. Flood irrigation is used where the land is flat enough and drip irrigation is increasingly used to give large but infrequent doses of water to the vines. Hail is a significant risk too, with 30% of vines damaged every year. There is less regional diversity in Argentina than you might imagine, because the climatic differences are often negated by the effects of altitude. For example, the region of Salta, in the north of the country, has some of the highest vineyards in the world, at around 2,000m, but the region's northerly location means its climate is similar to Mendoza. The altitude here, and in Mendoza, provides the vines with plenty of ultraviolet light which encourages the development of anthocyanins and therefore colour in the red grapes, hence the rich, deep colour of many Argentine malbecs. When these anthocyanins combine with tannins during fermentation the result is the velvety, opulent texture one associates with the best malbecs. It is one of the chief reasons for the difference between the Argentine malbecs and the firmer, drier versions from the grape’s natural home at Cahors in south-west France. Salta province, more than 1,000 kilometres north of Mendoza, also makes very fine malbec and other reds at altitudes over 1,500 metres, but is also the heartland of torrontés production in Argentina. This cross between país and muscat is a source of wonderfully aromatic and fresh white wines. Many vines here are pergola trained, allowing the grapes to hang down beneath the canopy, shaded from the sun to prevent burning.Soils throughout Argentina’s wine regions vary: alluvial soils such as gravel, silts sand and clay are common around Mendoza and in the Rio Negro area in Patagonia, Argentina’s other major wine-producing area.Rio Negro is also a semi-desert area, far from the cooling effects of altitude in the Andes and the sea, which is 500 kilometres to the east. The Rio Negro, meaning ‘black river’, runs east on a glacial bed that lies beneath the arid plateau. The waters of the river irrigate the area via channels initially built by British engineers in 1828. Frost is a major risk here and it is not unusual to see the smudge pots often used in Chablis employed in the vineyards of Rio Negro. Soils are varied but generally alluvial with some limestone cropping up amongst the pebbles A wide range of grape varieties are cultivated in the Rio Negro and, apart from one or two exceptions, the region has yet to earn the reputation for quality that Mendoza and the other mountain vineyards have achieved.
"I very much enjoyed this wine and intend to order some more"
I would recommend this wine
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"The 2015 vintage caught my attention as it was just an exceptional example of a high altitude, perfumed less alcoholic, Malbec. I liked it in the same way as I sometimes like a quality Shiraz/Viognier blend. I rated the 2016 only three stars, as it is clearly a lesser version of the 2015, an even cooler vintage forcing the inclusion of 10% Cabernet to give it some more structure and interest. I guess this is telling us that there is only so high / so cool that Malbec can go without needing some extra help to make sure it is still hefty enough to accompany its staple food companions."
Mr Alex Heath (30-Apr-2019)
"I don't know how this wine ended up in the bottle labelled ' The Society's Exhibition ' . It's thoroughly uninteresting , thin , without any distinguishing characteristic for the good. It's certainly not an £11 bottle. Back to the tasting room basics Wine Society buyers. "
Mr John Hope (03-Nov-2018)
"I am in the middle of the genuinely varied reviews by other members. Crunchy blackberry fruit, well balanced, enjoyable but not amazing. Decent value at £11."
Rev Robert Stanier (28-Oct-2018)
"An addendum to my earlier review. I bought another bottle on the basis of my enjoyment of the first one. Nothing wrong with it but quite different from the first, and not in a good way. More grip and less body, though flavours were pretty much as I remembered. I had a bottle of the standard Society Malbec last week and there wasn't much difference. In summary, not bad but not special as the first bottle was. "
Mr John Lay (28-Aug-2018)
"A dissenting note here; I didn't find this wine to be anywhere near worthy of the five stars some others have given it, nor of carrying the society's Exhibition label. This is a terribly simple wine, sweet and smooth, and not in a good way. One-dimensional basic red fruit that in my experience lacked any structure, depth, oak or savoury notes. "
Mr Tom Lavercombe (23-Aug-2018)
"Matched perfectly with my pate and cheese in the sunshine. Beautifully fruity, not too oaky, and absolutely delicious."
Mr Ray Mount (21-May-2018)
"(Of the 2015). This was quite a surprise when I pulled it from the cellar. Perhaps not the best wine I had this yer, but certainly one of the few that hs made me sit up and take notice. Delicious red and blue fruit, fine structure and absolutely delicious use of oak, all smoke and spice without being overwhelming. Measured but with fresh punch. Very fine. I thought the 2015 was going to be too young, but it was perfect. Bravissimo! And I don't say that very often.
But now I can only buy the 2016...
Quite a coup after Caten Old Lines Chardonnay couple of weeks back, which was frankly, very 1985. All butter and no definition."
Mr Matthew F Hayes (10-May-2018)
"A Ronseal of a wine and that’s no bad thing. Does exactly what it says on the tin"
Mr Jonathan Taylor (26-Mar-2018)
"Juicy, dark fruit, balanced and structured. Some complexity but undemanding, which is no bad thing. Really enjoyed this wine."
Mr John Lay (17-Mar-2018)
"Disappointing, seemed to lack something, no structure or character. Am sure there are better Mendoza Malbecs out there to be included in the Society's exhibition range."
Mr Graham Davies (23-Apr-2018)
Mr Gordon Allan (07-Feb-2018)
"I love Malbec wines. I also love Catena wines. But somehow this particular number fails to be a winner. Something wrong somewhere."
Dr Richard Fox (06-Jan-2018)
"I've just seen the 2015 vintage go out of stock.
I ordered 4 bottles for Christmas lunch and was not disappointed - and neither were the other members of the family.
A thoroughly versatile wine that worked well with the excellent turkey we had. A very light oak flavour, soft tannins and a little bit of leather and spice.
Great with the meal and great to sip afterwards."
Mr Martin Wingate (27-Dec-2017)
"An excellent example of Argentinian Malbec at a very good price."
Mr Jonathan Carne (23-Sep-2017)
"Very good full flavoured wine. Juicy without being jammy, and just enough tannins."
Mr Colin Mitchell (23-Apr-2017)
Sunday Express (3rd Sep 2017)
"Blending malbec from
vineyards at 900 to 1,450 metres, this is made for The Wine Society by leading
producer Catena. It’s well balanced with floral blackberry and black cherry
fruit, as well as a bit of savoury grip. It’s sleek, structured and sophisticated.
- Jamie Goode"
Lynn News (23rd May 2017)
"Rich, luscious and
loaded with blackberry, prune and raspberry notes, it's soft as a cloud and has
wonderful complexity. They could charge £25 for this and it would still be a
steal. - Giles Luckett"
"My favourite Malbec."
Mr Benjamin R Briffett (21-Jan-2017)
"Very enjoyable expression of Malbec. The description has it spot on."
Mr Nicholas Monk (28-Oct-2016)
"I opened the Malbec 3hrs before our guests arrived, because the Exhibition reds have a habit of needing several hours in a decanter before drinking. It opens with a lovely strong nose of damsons and black cherries.. BUT its clearer far too young to drink. I almost gagged on my initial taste, its that dense you could cut it with a knife and fork. So we put it aside and started our meal with a different wine After 4hrs in a decanter it had opened a little, and we drank it. You can tell that in a couple of years it will be a wonderful wine. Just don't expect to drink it out the bottle."
Mr James Brown (17-Aug-2016)
"Saw the mixed reviews about the previous vintage, but decided to try anyway. Pleased to say I really enjoyed it. This is probably the best value Malbec I have ever had. Strong nose on opening, with a very smooth, almost chocolate-like on the palette, very fruity and a great finish. Gave a 'Taste Test' to a fellow Wine Society Member who thought it must have been from Fine Wine stock! Have ordered more now, so am willing to share the secret!
Also try the Cahors - Clos de la Coutale - excellent for the price too."
Mr Paul Buckley (30-Jul-2016)
The Scotsman (17th Dec 2016)
"This is one of the
best value Malbecs I have tasted - and a previous star buy in past
tastings. A superb bargain made by leading Mendoza winery Catena
exclusively for The Wine Society. Deep damson, liquorice notes, fleshy
succulent fruits, deep, velvet smooth and long finish; from a mix of five
vineyards (Agrelo, Gualtallary, Vista Flores, Eugenio Bustos and Altamira) to
create a complex blend, finished with 18 months in French (85%) and American (15%)
oak. Serve with roast beef. - Rose Murray Brown"
joannasimon.com (27th Jun 2016)
cool black fruit, black pepper and bitter chocolate, with softening tannins.
Concentrated, sensitively oaked and even better in a couple of years.
- Joanna Simon
"Very nice wine"
Mr Robert Hudson (12-Aug-2016)
"Gorgeous wine, inviting deep Malbec nose,but with a deep full fruit palate but not over-powering. Cherries, plums, nice acidity, Dare i suggest it gives a nod to the austerity of its french parent Cahor but manages to win you round into its modern easy style. It ends up quite a crowd pleaser. Again it benefits from a good 30 mins in a decanter and room temperature to bring out its full fleshy luscious texture. Very well made and probably fantastic for 90% of wine drinkers. But I'm an old fashioned wine man. I still like the way the Malbec of Cahor wins you over despite its disadvantages of inconsistent vintages (Cahors are just more interesting imho, but rarely match the consistency shown in this wine)."
Mr James Brown (19-Dec-2015)
"Big, rich and chocolatey. Pretty much what I'm looking for in a reasonable Malbec. Yes, needs a bit of time to breathe, but at under £10 I'm not sure what people are unhappy about."
Mr Matthew Huntingford (09-Oct-2015)
"Odd one here. I love this wine. It has a delicacy that goes way above £7 wines. It is certainly fruit-driven with a lovely hint of violets but also has enough structure to keep it "serious". This would be high on favourites and very high on my value-for-money list."
Mr Arthur Butler (09-Oct-2015)
"Not great - a touch tight and might benefit from decanting but I wouldn't bother again"
Mr Steven Athey (23-Aug-2015)
"I'm a bit confused here. 2 reviews (including Jane McQuitty's) wax lyrically over this wine, yet my view exactly echoes Mr O'Halloran's, so its either a bit of a marmite wine or there are some bottle control issues. The nose on this is good but my bottle tasted like something I'd expect to pick up for £7. The next day didn't improve matters and I'm sad to say that I tipped the remainder away after a glass. This just lacked subtlety for me, the fruit too ripe and imposing."
Mr Jon Milton (30-Jul-2015)
"I have to say the nose was reminiscent of a cheaper wine - that was quickly forgotten after a mouthful of big fruit, acidity, Christmas spices and earthy tannins. While it did deliver it did have a rustic edge and I thought it wasn't quite up to the very high standards of other comparable Exhibition wines. The next day it had lost it's fruit and acidity so this one needs to drunk soon after opening."
Mr Anthony O'Halloran (09-Jul-2015)
"Took this to my wine group. It was superb. Whilst it is big fruited it has enough restraint and acidity to be cool. Very well done TWS."
Mr Russell Sainty (14-Jun-2015)
The Scotsman (19th Dec 2015)
"This is one of the
best value malbecs I have tasted. It's a superb bargain made by leading
Argentine winery Catena exclusively for The Wine Society. With deep damson and
liquorice notes plus fleshy succulent fruits, it's deep, velvet smooth and has
a long finish. Serve with roast beef. - Rose Murray Brown"
Sunday Express (1st Nov 2015)
"Floral and meaty,
this is bursting with moreish black cherries, plums and a smooth, ripe texture.
I love the meaty edge to the sweet fruit. - Jamie Goode"
The Scotsman (26th Sep 2015)
"Star buy: This ticks
the box for everything you want from a big boned Malbec at an affordable
price. Damson aromas, voluptuous fleshy fruit flavours, licquorice hints
with soft gentle vanilla undertones, smooth tannins and good long length.
Superb example made by the well-known Mendoza-based Catena winery who select fruit from five different vineyards: Agrelo, Gualtallary,
Vista Flores, Eugenio Bustos and Altamira to create a more complex blend –
finished with 18 months in mainly French oak (85%) with 15% American oak.
Bring out the steak … - Rose Murray Brown"
Reader's Digest (22nd Aug 2015)
"A classic malbec… a
delicious accompaniment to a full-flavoured onglet and chimichurri. - Rachel Walker"
The Times (18th Jul 2015)
"Enjoy this hefty,
tannic, bitter black chocolate, woodsmoke and liquorice-laced red with a
sizzling steak plus a spicy South American chimichurri sauce or chipotle chilli
rub, when it will bring a smile to your face as it melts in your mouth. - Jane MacQuitty"
"Delicious. Lovely fragrance, gentle dark berry flavours, drinkable all night long :)."
Dr James Hayward (13-Oct-2014)
JancisRobinson.com (24th Jun 2014)
"Dark purple. Intense
and yet not heavy. Great balance. Arguably one of the wines that most
eloquently argues in favour of The Wine Society’s prowess. Super-clean finish
yet definitively a Mendoza Malbec. Appetising and good value. - Jancis Robinson"
"Sweet, deep and oaky. I initially tried this last year at an informal tasting and have ordered regularly ever since. This is a superb buy for the price. I have yet to find a competitor available at the same price which matches the complexity of this Malbec."
Miss Caroline Day (26-Feb-2014)
"Quite good but I doubt I will buy again at the price!"
Mr David O'Brien (04-Jan-2014)
"Recently discovered Malbec, being a bit of a trad old wine French wine lover. Now drink Malbec regularly and this Exh. label from The Wine Society is one of my favourites. In fact, I have served or given to several friends now with rave reviews. Very highly recommended."
Mr Graham Roberts-Phelps (07-Dec-2013)
"Has a lot of sweetness - each to their own but there are other malbecs at similar prices that are better."
Mr Ned Salisbury (14-Oct-2013)
"Well done WS. A lovely tipple. Full, sweet and most moreish."
Mr David J Miller (03-Oct-2013)
"Outstanding fruit/acid/tannin balance and superb flavour."
Mr David McDowell (06-Aug-2013)
"Great value for money, will definitely buy again. Although we served with some crackers and cheese, this wine does not require food and would be easy to drink on its own."
Mr Joe McKay (10-Jun-2013)
The Lady (20th Mar 2014)
"Shows how good more
conventional Argentine wines can be. It has spice, fragrance and grace. - Henry Jeffreys"
The Times (13th Jul 2013)
"Oaky yet rich fruity reds work well with barbecued red meats, echoing their charred flavours. The Argentinians know a thing about grilling beef and any of you tucking into [this], with its magnificent bold thwack of 14 per cent alcohol-charged prune and plum fruit, will soon discover why. - Jane MacQuitty"
The Wine Gang (2nd May 2013)
"A ripe but fresh, velvety, oak-aged Malbec from a cool vintage. It was barrel-aged for 16 months, which shows in the smoky, toasty character, but there are plenty of other flavours to take the oak – sweet black fruit, fragrant spice and a seam of minerally black-pepper. And without the oak, where would the seductive velvet texture be? Delicious now, or any time over the next five or so years."
JancisRobinson.com (4th Apr 2013)
"Savoury nose and sweet, flattering palate entry with well-judged combination of ripe sweet fruit and structure. Serious, grown-up wine. With some floral, rose-petal top notes. All pleasure. Though sweet rather than dry on the end too. I suspect it's more than 14%. Good value. "
"I liked it."
Mr Dominic Frisby (20-Nov-2012)
"I'd have to agree with leaving it for a year or two.
Bit disappointed with it. I could taste the potential, didn't really give me everything I hoped for, particularly for a Mendoza Malbec.
It was decanted and didn't really click for my wife or I. For a £9.95 bottle I think I'd prefer a Ripasso, which is cheaper.
I'm going to get another bottle when it's back in stock and lay it down for a couple of years."
Mr Adam Caplan (01-Nov-2012)
"This is a lovely wine at the price."
Mr Russell Sainty (25-Sep-2012)
"Surprisingly sweet and opulent on the palate - very pleasant drink now, in my view. Our bottles were less tannic than might be expected. Very good value as ever, probably worth snapping up while it lasts."
Dr Mark W McKergow (09-Apr-2012)
"Interestingly, the point about leaving this for a year or two is a very valid one. For example, restaurants in Argentina would not serve the 2009 vintage. Currently they would be serving the 2007 or 2006. The society has some interesting Argentinean wines but, to get the best out of them, I would buy and place in reserves for 2-4 years. This is when these wines will start to settle and exhibit that beautiful smooth texture and balance of fruit and tannin that we know and love from these wines. If you do this you'll swear that you're drinking a £25 bottle rather than a £10 bottle."
Mr Charlie Jenkins (04-Mar-2012)
"I liked this wine, but it was not as good as expected for an Exhibition wine. I will bow to the previous reviewers comment over leaving it for another year."
Mr Richard Morton (26-Feb-2012)
"The nose shows an appealing smoky blackcurrant flavour, kirsch too. The palate is beautifully layered, fat and sumptuous with just the right balance between fruit and savouriness. This lovely wine is big, bold but contained and is drinking well now, although another year or two would do it no harm at all as the tannins are quite crunchy. Very good value."
Mr William Davies (28-Dec-2011)
"This is a cracking bottle of Malbec. Vibrant ripe fruits and licorice on the nose. Blackberries, nicely tamed oak on the palate. Chocolatey mouthfeel. Medium bodied. This wine is very well made and strikes an interesting balance between New World deliciousness and Old World detail and refinement. Extremely good value for money."
Mr William Davies (06-Aug-2011)
"We have just had the first bottle of this wine. It is more refined than the 2007 vintage with perhaps not quite so much body. The tasting notes are very accurate and we thoroughly enjoyed it with roast lamb. It will be very interesting to compare it with the Susanna Balbo signature malbec that I bought at the same time!"
Dr Paul Stockbridge (21-Feb-2011)
"Having spent 5 years living in Buenos Aires, I was excited to see that the Exhibition Argentine Malbec was from Bodega Catena Zapata. This vineyard is a favourite of mine and this Malbec did not disappoint. There is an intense black fruit taste, full bodied and wonderfully smooth on the tongue. All of this at a remarkable price that is brilliant value for a wine from this vineyard."
Mr Mike Clark (17-Nov-2009)
"I'll take some persuading that any other Malbec at double this price is worth ordering, It is rich and silky with the brambles you expect but the taste in the mouth is full and expressive. It lingers long in the aftertaste and gently washes the paIate on the way down. This is really is a huge find for the Society and one of which I shall be ordering again and again."
Mr Ian Charlton (11-Nov-2009)
"Historically, Argentina has kept much of its wine consumption at home, drinking most of the wine it makes. But I am now seeing more serious Argentine wines north of the border, and Malbec is leading the movement. The Society’s Exhibition Argentine Malbec, 2007 is a great example and if you compare across the lines excellent value for money. The wine-making region in Argentina ranges between the 22° and 42° South latitude. It spreads at the foothills of the Andean mountain range along over 2,400 km; from the province of Salta to the province of Río Negro, with a variety of climates and soils that makes each region a unique land. In general terms, the areas dedicated to vine cultivation are dry and arid with a low level of rain and humidity, determining factor as regards grape health. Give this solid and well balanced Society’s Exhibition Argentine Malbec a go this Christmas."
Mr Matthew Jones (11-Nov-2009)
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The Society's wine buyers work very closely with our suppliers to determine how best to seal our wines. We list below those closures currently in use with a brief description of each.
A technical cork made up of the remnants from the production of natural corks which are ground down into particles and cleaned and then combined using a food-grade polyurethane glue. A cheaper closure which The Society's buyers discourage suppliers from using.
A technical cork made from cheaper-grade natural cork where the naturally occurring pores are filled with ground down cork particles and then the whole is sealed with a food-grade wax coating. Generally only used for wines with a short shelf-life.
Diam corks look like agglomerate corks but are far superior and are designed to put an end to cork taint and random oxidation. The production process chops cork into pieces and sorts the superior, highly elastic, suberin component from the less elastic lignin, which is discarded. It mixes the suberin with microscopic spheres of the same substance used for contact lenses, which fills the voids between the cork particles reducing porosity to air and increasing elasticity without introducing humidity. Finally the pieces are mixed with a glue and moulded under pressure. The mechanical properties of the cork are guaranteed for a certain minimum number of years depending on the grade of cork - for example Diam 2 is guaranteed for two years; Diam 3, 5 and 10 are also available.
The Champagne cork is 90% agglomerate made from cork off-cuts which are ground down, cleaned, compressed and then glued together with two disks of good quality natural cork glued onto the end which protrudes into the bottle.
Natural corks harvested from the cork oak (Quercus suber) forests in Spain and Portugal have been the closure of choice for wine for the 300 years. The bark of the cork oak is stripped from mature trees every nine years. The planks are stored and then cleaned and graded before the corks are punched out of the wood. For wines destined for long-ageing, high-grade natural corks are still the closure of choice.
Cost-effective synthetic 'corks' made from food-grade plastic with a silicone coating (similar to that used on natural corks). Generally used for wines for short-term cellaring.
A glass stopper with a plastic 'O' ring which acts as an interface between the top of the bottle and the stopper, held in place by a metal, tamper-proof seal. Relatively expensive as a closure and not widely used. Can be removed by hand.
A short natural or agglomerate cork with a plastic or wooden top to enable the stopper to be removed by hand. Traditionally used for whiskies, sherries, Madeira etc.
Aluminium alloy screwcaps made with an expanded polyethylene wadding for the lining. Screwcaps are also known as ROTEs (roll-on tamper evident) or by the brand name (Stelvin is a popular brand). Widely used in Australia and New Zealand and for wines for short-term cellaring. Becoming increasingly sophisticated in terms of allowing differing levels of permeability so mimicking the properties of natural cork offering winemakers more choice depending of the style of wine being made. There is still a lack of sound data regarding the performance of screwcaps for longer-term cellaring.
This is an agglomerate cork with a disk of good-quality natural cork adhered to both ends. A reasonably priced, reliable alternative to natural cork.
This is the metal pilfer-proof cap usually used to seal beer bottles but also used in the production of Champagne and sparkling wine when wines are stored under crown cap before the dosage is added. A few producers use crown caps to seal wine bottles. Open with a standard bottle opener.
Jamie Goode has written an excellent book on the subject of closures for those wishing to find out more (Wine Bottle Closures, Flavour Press).
The Society includes the alcohol by volume percentage figure for each wine available online, in Lists and offers.
Alcohol by volume%
Units per standard bottle
We always include the abv (alcohol by volume) in our wines online, in our Lists and in our offers. Members looking to choose wines with lower levels of alcohol can now search our range by level of alcohol.
It is generally accepted that over the last 20 years or so alcohol levels in wine have been increasing. There are many reasons why, including but not limited to the vast improvement in vineyard management techniques which have resulted in healthier, riper fruit being harvested. Alcohol is a by-product of the fermentation of sugars in the grapes and the best-quality wines are made from grapes that have reached physiological ripeness (colour, flavour and tannin), and this generally happens after sugar ripeness.
There are several techniques that can be used to reduce alcohol levels but currently most strip the flavour as well as the alcohol, and we don't buy wines made in this way.
Excellent-quality wine is at the heart of everything we do at The Wine Society and balance is the single most important feature of quality. The interaction of a wine's sugar, acidity, tannin, alcohol and flavour matter more than the actual level of alcohol. A well-made wine of 14.5%, for example, will taste more balanced than an inferior-quality wine with 10% alcohol. Furthermore, alcohol levels are only a guide to a wine's fullness: a 12.5% cabernet sauvignon may feel heavier and more full-bodied in the mouth than, say, a gamay of 13.5%. Our tasting notes should be able to give you an idea of the style and fullness of an individual wine.
We are committed to promoting the responsible enjoyment of wines and spirits by providing relevant information to our members that allows you to make your own informed choices.
An additional figure used on some labels (including all our Society and Exhibition wines) is the number of (UK) units of alcohol contained in that bottle. This is simply the alcohol by volume percentage multiplied by the content (so a 13% wine in a standard 75cl bottle will have 9.7 units ).
For more information, please get in touch with us or visit drinkaware.co.uk
The Society's buyers provide recommended drink dates for all of our wines to help members decide the right time to pop the cork. As a general rule, most everyday white wines are best enjoyed within a year of purchase, and most everyday reds within two years. Certain fine wines, however, those with the right structure and balance, have the ability to evolve over time and gain complexity and finer nuances of flavour.
If the product page says:
...then our advice would be:
Should be drunk over the coming months, certainly within the year.
Ready to drink now but will keep until the year shown.
We recommend keeping longer before opening. For example, a wine will be ready to drink in 2020 but still young and will keep until 2042. It's a matter of personal taste when such wines should be drunk. Many members prefer to try the wines over many years from the opening drink date to the last to watch the wine evolve.
Within one year of purchase
A non-vintage wine that should be drunk within 12 months.
Within two years of purchase
A non-vintage wine that is ready now but will keep for two years.
Savouring the wonderfully complex and intense bouquet and flavour of a wine drank at its peak is undoubtedly one of life's greatest pleasures. As with people, the ageing process will vary from wine to wine. Over the years the wine's primary aromas of fresh fruit will develop more complicated and persistent secondary and tertiary aromas. The fruity flavours of, for example, a premier cru white Burgundy will, over time, evolve buttery, toasty and yeast aromas, or fine reds may develop coffee, cedar, tobacco, vegetal, or even 'animal' flavours as they age.
There is much pleasure to be had by experimenting with bottles at different stages of maturity; finding out how a wine evolves with age and, perhaps more importantly, establishing your own preference in terms of taste for mature wine are all part of the interest and excitement of cellaring wine.
The drinking window we provide is a guide to when the wines will be at their best. Many will favour the wines in the youthful early stages of their development; others will enjoy the wines at their most mature.
Decanting is a useful way of softening the tannins, rounding out the flavours and releasing the potential of a young wine. To find out more please visit our Serving Wine guide.
The Society's purpose-built, temperature-controlled Members' Reserves offers members access to optimum storage conditions for their wines.
For more help and advice about how best to enjoy your wines contact us via our enquiry form.
Oak plays a very important role in the production of wine throughout the world. However, the level of oak detectible in a wine can vary depending on a number of factors – for example, the age and size of the barrel and the type of oak used, as well as the length of time the wine is aged in wood. Oak also influences the structure and tannins of the final wine. For wines on our website, we use the following classifications:
This suggests that a wine has either seen no oak at all, or may have been produced using very large, old oak barrels, resulting in a wine that has no taste of oak. Expect these wines to be crisp, fruit-forward and aromatic.
Some oak has been used in the production, yet it has not been a defining factor in the style of the wine. In this instance, the oak may have played more of a part in the structure of the wine but there will still be discreet flavours associated with the use of new oak.
Wines that are defined by and known for their use of new oak. This must not be confused with a wine which is 'overly oaky' as that would purely be down to bad winemaking! We buy only wines that, we believe, use oak in a balanced and appealing way, enhancing flavour and complexity, and/or imparting structure.
How detectable oak is depends a good deal on the size of the barrel and how new it is. New oak provides a much more evident flavour and aroma and must be used carefully. The size of the barrel is important, as the smaller the barrel, the more surface area of the wine is in contact with the wood and the more flavour will be drawn out. Often, very large old oak barrels are used, which impart little or no oak flavour to the wine at all. They will still bring an extra dynamic to the final taste of a wine though, when compared to stainless steel or concrete vessels, as oak is porous and therefore lets a small amount of air into the barrel. This controlled oxidation has a positive effect on wines, softening the tannins and developing secondary flavours, all helping to add a complexity which comes with age.
There are many ways that people rate wines, whether it is on the 100 or 20 point scales, 5 stars, 3 glasses or simply thumbs up or down. The pleasure of a bottle of wine is hard to express in figures, but it does help give the memory of that wine a context, and a way of sharing your opinion with others.
In response to members' requests we have added a star rating option to the site so you can mark your favourites, or maybe those occasional less-than-welcome experiences, and make your next order easier.
You can use the 5-star rating tool to record your experiences however you wish, but if you are looking for some guidance we believe that a focus on the 'value' of the wine takes into account the quality but also the pleasure it provided, and whether it is something you would recommend to friends.