Staff Choices 2019
Wine is something to be shared and enjoyed. The 'Staff Choice' section, which is updated each month, 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 this year's previous 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note that, as some were published some time ago, not all of the wines will be in stock and some of the prices will be out of date.
NEW STAFF CHOICE
For December’s Staff Choice, we’ve embraced the giving spirit of the season and put together an entire case of staff favourites for you to try!
These 12 different bottles were the results of a Society-wide staff vote to find the under-£10 gems in our range that our team here in Stevenage like best. As expected, they’ve done us proud: in this globetrotting selection you’ll find white wines from England, New Zealand, Spain and Portugal, reds from Italy, Spain, California and the Rhône, a delectable southern French rosé and even a bottle of fizz; and all for less than £8 a bottle.
We hope you enjoy them as much as we do, and would like to take this opportunity to wish you a very Merry Christmas!
£95 case of 12 bottles
(Five red, five white, one rosé and one sparkling wine)
Previous Staff Choices
Before I start, let me just confess that I am an absolute Hispanophile… the whites, the reds, the pinks, the fortifieds; you name it and I either love it or am desperate to try it. It could be the huge range of styles you get possibly, from fresh and zippy whites to fat and creamy ones, upfront and fruity reds or complex and leathery oak-aged masterpieces. And the value is always there all the way from the sub-£6 bottles (take a look at our Southern Spanish Red too which I think could be one of the best-value wines on our List) to the dizzying heights of perfectly matured Gran Reserva Riojas which you can still find great examples for less than many other countries’ premium offerings.
Here, though, we’re talking Cava. And not just your standard fresh appley glass of fizz. This excellent example is produced by the one of the Riojan greats, Muga. Much in keeping with the stellar quality of their still wines, this beautiful bottle of bubbles packs such a depth of flavour. It’s got layers of biscuit wrapped around a fresh core of apple but intertwined with an unctuous creaminess that comes from the extended maturation on its lees (just like Champagne).
For the price you pay, the complex flavours and textures you get, I think it is stonkingly good value. On a blind taste, it would give a fair few Champagnes a run for their money! You could say I’m rather fond-e of the Conde…
Member Services Support Team
£13.95 - Bottle
£83.50 case of six
We’ve been well blessed with a run of good to very good vintages across Europe recently starting with 2015, and this has given us a wealth of very good ‘second wines’: in various guises, producers have been making wines from grapes that, in lesser years, would be sent directly for their top cuvées.
Some of the best-value wines I’ve tasted over the last year or so, thanks in no small part to these producers’ benevolence, have been nebbiolo from the Langhe. Rizzi and Cavallotto stand out for producing very fine Barbaresco (see our Exhibition Barbaresco for proof) and Barolo respectively but this still more modest nebbiolo from Torraccia del Piantavigna was a delightful find.
Fragrant and haunting, much like its more exalted (though still lesser-known) bigger brother Ghemme, this has the freshness and lightness- of-touch of younger-vine fruit, but the tannins and acidity that creep up on the palate to let you know that this is nebbiolo and this is still serious wine. So as the nights start to draw in, though we ostensibly refuse to dust off our scarves and gloves (at the time of writing the clocks haven’t gone back yet, after all!), this midway red would be a perfect partner to a Tagliatelle Bolognese or venison rump with a creamy wild mushroom risotto.
Member Services Adviser
£11.50 - Bottle
£69 case of six
It may be September, but it seems we’re clutching on to the warm weather a little while longer before it’s time to dig out your Big Coat and crank the heating up. I feel that much as a dog is not just for Christmas, a rosé is not just for summer and this Puglian beauty is the perfect one to see you through the transitioning seasons. Full-flavoured and robust with bold cherry and redcurrant fruit, it has fresh acidity and is a pleasantly warming 13%. Don’t be put off by how strikingly pink it is – this is deliciously dry.
I first bought it in April last year when trying to find a wine specifically to pair with a tomato and chickpea curry; our Food and Wine Matcher suggested this as tomato friendly, so I took a chance and happily it paid off! It’s now my go to for tomato-based dishes but is also great with something like grilled lamb chops or a steak salad or if you’re after simpler fare, a jacket potato with beans and cheese.
Whatever the weather, there is always room in my glass for this rosé!
Member Services Adviser (…and soon to be Tastings & Events Host!)
£8.25 - Bottle
£49.50 case of six
I’ve only really been enjoying Prosecco since it became a bit trendy a few years back. Since then I’ve had some that’s been pretty good, some that’s been absolutely horrendous and none that has been anywhere near as good as this!
Anyone who knows me will confirm that I am no wine snob, but…. when it comes to Prosecco at any kind of gathering, when I see those naughty-looking off-licence/supermarket bottles appear I swerve them double quick while figuring out a way of keeping my Society Prosecco away from the bringers of bad booze!
This is crisp, dry, refreshing and massively moreish: cracking bubbles, well-balanced acidity and great value. It ticks all the boxes and is exactly what Prosecco should be.
Member Services Team Leader
£10.50 - Bottle
£63 case of six
My last Staff Choice wine back in 2014 was the desperately unfashionable Moscato d’Asti (possibly why I have only now been trusted to write another!). I’m still a fan of the Moscato but this time, I decided to highlight something that might be considered a bit more credible amongst my colleagues!
Hailing from eastern France, just to the south of the currently fashionable Jura, Savoie is home to the commune of Arbin, which in turn is home to the Genoux family and the Château de Mérande. Produced from the mondeuse grape (native to Savoie), this is a deliciously deep-coloured yet crunchy and fresh red that is extremely at home at lunchtime alongside some saucisson, a garlicky pâté, some hard cheese and a green salad.
Its 12% alcohol brings a welcome elegance and helps the perception of freshness, which alongside the subtle dusty tannins create a wonderful foil to the dark forest-fruit aromas and almost fruit-pastille palate.
Not cheap but sufficiently engaging over the course of the bottle to warrant the price, this may not have the frivolous fun qualities of my previous Staff Choice but this mondeuse might just rock your monde.
Quality Control Buying Manager
£17 - Bottle
£204 per case of 12
My wife drinks gin and tonic at home and we have a fair few different distillers’ gin on the side. I bought a bottle of the Society’s Gin last year in its new-look bottle to see how it compared.
After tasting it, I am now a convert! It’s an astounding gin especially for the price. There’s nothing ‘gimmicky’ about it (unlike some other odd-flavoured gins) and it’s a great all-rounder. With lovely aromatics, a very rounded taste and slight spice, everything is in balance and paired with a decent tonic and a few cubes of ice it makes a great refreshing drink especially as the summer is (hopefully) now on its way.
The master distiller is Charles Maxwell, founder of Thames Distillery, who was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the UK’s Gin Guild for his ‘dedication to the production and promotion of the highest-quality gin’ – and it shows. If you haven’t tried it before I thoroughly recommend doing so: it has now become our house gin!
Digital Insight Manager
£17 - Bottle
In November last year I was lucky enough to join buyers Sebastian Payne MW and Sarah Knowles MW on a trip to Piedmont to select wines for our 2015 Barolo en primeur offer.
Out of the hundreds of fabulous wines we tasted, it was this relatively humble dolcetto that put the biggest smile of the week on my face.
After three days of tasting young Barolo, to sit in a restaurant in the centre of Dogliani with a giant bowl of fresh ragù and a chilled bottle of dolcetto, with its low acidity, sweet fruit and violet perfume, was like slumping in to your favourite chair after a long day on your feet.
I love cooking and (along with every other bloke on the planet) consider my ragù alla bolognese to be the best. And since that day in Dogliani I make sure I have a bottle of Luigi Einaudi’s dolcetto by my side as the pan simmers away and the kitchen fills with the rich smell of this dish. The fruit is sweet and moreish, tempered by half an hour in the fridge, with deliciously bright cherry cola, plum, baking spice and almond flavours.
Now that the sun has started to come out and the old ‘one-pot-wonders’ are returning to the culinary cupboard the kitchen doors are open and the BBQ is back in play – but I know I’ll still be reaching for this!
Buying Department Trainee
£11.50 - Bottle
£138 per case of 12
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Having worked at The Wine Society for 21 years, I’ve been lucky to try many styles of wine... but the viognier grape is one of my white wine favourites, especially when it comes from the Rhône valley.
This wine and producer were new to our Christmas List last year and with some good press mentions behind it, I decided to give it a try. With lovely peach and apricot aromas so typical of the grape, it is rich, smooth and creamy. It goes really well with my homemade chicken korma and mushroom risotto but with my husband also being a fan of this wine, the bottle’s contents disappear far too quickly! It’s a great-value wine too at just under £10 and I think it could pass as a much more expensive northern Rhône white.
As regional merchandiser, my role is to ensure we are in stock of many wines, including this one, so I’ll be keeping a close eye on stock levels to make sure we never run out!
£9.95 - Bottle
£59.50 per case of six
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Italy is a favourite when it comes to choosing wines, and I need no excuse to explore our extensive range. This one is a recent discovery I made, and stood out for a few reasons.
As well as being excellent value, it's bursting with fruit on the palate in a delicious and versatile way: it's perfect to open on its own or with food. I tend to enjoy it midweek – especially if there's Italian food on the menu - and can see it becoming my go-to BBQ wine this summer, if I can only stop myself from telling people about how good it is and keep the secret to myself.
£8.25 - Bottle
£49.50 per case of six
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I’ll have been at The Wine Society for 29 years this April (after four years as a Christmas temp!); when I first came here I didn’t know anything about wine, but over the years I’ve worked out what I like, and what I don’t like.
I’ve discovered I don’t like oaky whites: I much prefer citrusy styles and quite often find myself going for sauvignon blanc wines, especially ones from Chile and New Zealand.
Italy’s falanghina is in a similar ballpark, but has a slightly different flavour. It has a citrusy, clean, gooseberry kind of taste with a spicy feel to it, but it’s still very easy to drink and offers very good value for money.
The first time I opened this, I had some friends round and we tried it with pizza; it worked surprisingly well, but it’s also a great choice for pasta. I’d definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a delicious crowd-pleaser.
Members’ Reserves Team Leader
£8.75 - Bottle
£52.50 per case of six
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It’s rare that I buy any wines from anywhere that isn’t The Wine Society, and bottles like this one are the reason why. Jean-Louis Chave is one of the top names in the northern Rhône, and his Hermitage under his own label is upwards of £100. The fact that I can get my hands on actual Hermitage, made by actual Chave, at under £40 a bottle is insanity; but I’m certainly not complaining. Quite the opposite!
This is a full-bodied red made from syrah, with dark-fruit flavours and a delicious hint of black olive. I didn’t get round to trying it for the first time until two or three years ago, at which point we were listing the 2007 vintage. The vintages aren’t released in chronological order; instead Marcel Orford-Williams (our Rhône buyer) decides which of the vintages in our cellars is tasting best and then will release that one for sale. The 2007 blew my socks off and the 2014 is just as delicious, and is my wine-hack for when I want to drink some really very fine wine but not spend tons of money.
If you fancy a winter warmer or something to go with a casserole, then this is absolutely perfect. I personally like to decant it and drink it without food when I want to treat myself. I’ll tend to enjoy it either on my own (split over a couple of nights… maybe) in front of the TV, or with a wine-loving friend. Sometimes you need to treat yourself!
£39 - Bottle
£468 per case of 12
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