Staff Choices 2020
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note that, as some were published some time ago, not all of the wines will be in stock and some of the prices will be out of date.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
This wine is entirely fitting for the December Staff Choice as this is the time of year when people come together to celebrate. This year has been a bit of a rollercoaster and many people have not been able to come together for special occasions as they normally would. I believe that this wine is the perfect choice of fizz for this Christmas just to celebrate getting through this year!
I have bought this wine on many occasions to drink with family and friends and it has also been a delightful gift to many of the same people on their birthday or anniversary.
My sister has particularly enjoyed this for a couple of her recent birthdays as both my sister and the wine are vegan. I know for certain this is one that I will be taking to my family to enjoy on Christmas Day while we can. It will also bring back many joyous memories of family holidays to the Loire Valley.
I hope that this wine can be enjoyed by many families in the coming month, as I have done with mine.
Member Services Adviser
£12.95 - Bottle
£77.50 case of six
Previous Staff Choices
Being asked to provide the ‘Staff Choice’ is a big responsibility, especially in November and the run up to Christmas, so I wanted to find something that was lovely to drink on its own but which could also stand up to traditional festive fare.
I must admit I went around the houses on this one as I had wanted to pick something different from my usual favourites, but I kept coming back to the southern Rhône, where I have spent so many summer holidays.
The southern Rhône is beautiful, and my family has explored this region well by car and bicycle. There are the famous villages of Gigondas and Vacqueyras on the slopes of les Dentelles (French for teeth, which they so resemble) and other named AC villages like Rastau, Roaix and Carrianne dotted around on the hills between the valleys, all overshadowed by the beast of Provence, Mt Ventoux herself. There’s a lot of history here with towns like Vaison-la-Romaine and Nyons dating back to Roman times with the winemaking history to match.
With so many villages, which property and wine to choose? I cheated a bit and picked a winery with vineyards in several appellations!
I’ve always had a soft spot for Domaine des Escaravailles (named after the Scarab beetle that decorates its label… but don’t let that put you off!). One of our first visits here was in a borrowed old Renault Clio: the Volvo had given up on a trip up Mt Ventoux and the owner of the Gite in which we were staying had lent us a car to get ‘essentials’! The access road was well worn and when we left fully loaded with our holiday purchases, some of us had to walk for fear of losing the exhaust on the way back down the hill.
For those planning a visit, fear not: you will now find a new access road, a modern tasting room (with the most beautiful views overlooking the vines and the Dentelles) and a warm welcome. The property is family owned: it is currently run by Gilles Férran, although his daughters are keen to take over, and he makes wines from a range of vineyards in the surrounding villages.
Côtes-du-Rhône Sablières is a blend of grenache and syrah from plots planted at higher altitudes. Being predominantly grenache, it is a generous full-flavoured wine with ripe fruit flavours of strawberry and redcurrant. The syrah in the blend adds some spice, pepper and an almost floral character, and the tannins are ripe and silky. Throughout the summer we had this with barbecues, but as we move into colder weather roasts are back on the menu and it will definitely make an appearance on the 25th December!
Member Services Team Leader
£9.50 - Bottle
£114 case of 12
It might be a little tricky to pronounce, but this Greek red is definitely worth getting to know. It’s made by the appropriately Greek-sounding Apostolos Thymiopoulos – a big, smiley bear of a man who I was lucky enough to meet at one of our tastings.
Apostolos is passionate about the xinomavro grape, and it shows. This indigenous northern Greek variety has made itself particularly at home in Naoussa and has been likened to a cross between a new world pinot noir and an Italian Barolo.
But in reality this is a wine which is completely unique and that’s one of the reasons I love it and find myself going back to it year after year.
So what does it taste like? Well on the nose there are aromas of smoky red fruits with hints of savoury balsamic, herbs and liquorice. On the palate there are those balsamic cherry flavours which come through again, alongside that hint of smoke, and dried herbs. The acid levels make the wine really refreshing and the tannins provide structure, which is why this wine is so perfect with food (although it also works very well as an accompaniment to cooking dinner too!).
This is a wine which works across the board, from burgers on the barbecue, to sweet potatoes griddled with feta cheese and pomegranate seeds – I appreciate this is quite specific but I tried it the other night and it was a revelation! I always try and ensure we have at least one bottle in the cupboard for any eventuality.
Tastings & Events Co-ordinator
£10.95 - Bottle
£65.50 case of six
At the back end of last year, I was coaxed by one of our wily Showroom staff members into spending my Christmas wine budget on a Mystery Case. I’m glad I did as my treasure was bountiful – an array of wines spanning years and regions that I rarely get to try. The case included a delightful 2014 German Riesling that although we were no longer selling, a quick Google search confirmed a value of £25 per bottle, well beyond my normal spend. I opened the riesling one evening shortly after lockdown began and encouraged my wife to give it a try. She’s not normally a white wine drinker – over the years I’ve struggled to find an anyday white to her standard – she’d much rather dip into a house red than a house white. And to her credit, on this occasion she was consistent in her assessment and declared that she loved it. Of course, my wife has expensive white-wine tastes!
There began my lockdown quest to find a reasonably priced white that my wife and I could both enjoy. My journey was surprisingly short.
My very next order included a bottle of The Society’s Saar Riesling, and in retrospect I’m not sure why I hadn’t bought it previously. It’s a delightful wine, with plenty of depth and character. It has a wonderful balance – the acidity stands up well to food but there is still enough fruit character (and a low enough alcohol) to drink it on its own.
It was the first wine I opened from a case of six whites that I hoped would meet the rigorous judgement of my wife, and it passed with flying colours. We enjoyed it that evening with a fish curry, but have since bought a full case and have opened bottles to enjoy with Sunday lunch, sushi, and a socially distanced picnic with friends.
Whether on a lockdown wine quest or just looking for a new favourite, I’d highly recommend it.
Product Marketing Manager
£10.95 - Bottle
£131 case of 12
Put simply, I love this wine! I would even be so bold as to say this is probably my all-time favourite wine from The Society and its history as a regular Wine Champion in our buyers’ blind tastings backs how great it is!
I discovered it whilst studying for my WSET level 2 and it’s always been front of mind as one of my favourites. Served chilled, it’s refreshing, easy to drink and its sweet and peachy flavours with floral notes make it the perfect summer friend, or a lovely dessert wine! It’s also very low in alcohol which means I don’t feel so guilty for not sharing during these socially distanced times…
Product Marketing Manager
£8.50 - Bottle
£51 case of six
I have a confession to make. I didn’t consciously buy this wine; it was part of an order I had placed for a village wine club tasting that I was going to present to over Easter. Then lockdown happened and I held off dipping into the wine club’s wines (I had actually paid for them, I would like to point out!) for as long as possible. Then we had the first of our socials via Zoom with work colleagues. ‘Join us for a Friday night glass together, the theme is sauvignon blanc,’ the email went. Well, as much as I like sauvignon blanc, I didn’t have any at home, so I thought what’s closest in style? It was time to break open the Camel Valley Bacchus.
Actually, I had been dying for an excuse to try this wine ever since wine writer Olly Smith had sung its praises in an article he wrote for us last year. It is still relatively unusual to find straight varietal wines in the UK but if any grape is going to be our flag-carrier, I reckon bacchus could be it. With its aromas of nettles and hedgerow it seems to epitomise the fragrance of this green and pleasant land in the same way that privet and freshly mown grass does, and hence the sauvignon blanc substitute suitability!
Actually, on opening, the wine is more heady and exotic than you might expect of an English wine, with hints of elderflower and a touch of white peach and even the subtlest suggestion of white pepper… those Cornish hillsides must be a bit of a suntrap! What makes it a winning package is the way these aromas combine with really bright crisp acidity which carry the flavours through on the palate.
It really was a beautiful pick-me-up at the end of a strange week and perfect sitting outside in the early evening sun. And probably gave me a bit more to think about than a straight sauvignon blanc would (sorry, sauvignon!). I liked the way it was no shrinking violet at the table too… a natural choice for fish and chips, a bit too crisp for my curry, but absolutely perfect with a goat’s cheese and tarragon tart that I rediscovered how to make.
If I haven’t convinced you to try a bottle for yourself, I will just add that my non-wine obsessed partner rarely comments on the glasses I pour for him. Rather annoyingly he seems to have quite a refined palate (always picking out the priciest wines on the occasions we have visited cellars and tasted their wares blind!); without looking at what we were drinking, unprompted, he said ‘this is rather nice’… believe me, that is high praise indeed in this house!
News & Content Editor
£13.95 - Bottle
£83.50 case of six
I've always had a soft spot for Italian wines. There is such a vast range of styles and price points – something for everyone. Made by the team at Feudo Arancio on the southern coast of Sicily, this wine showcases the wonderful nero d'Avola grape and demonstrates richness and warmth from the basking sun, along with a delightful freshness from the coastal winds.
There is a lovely subtle sweetness to the nose, some black cherry, smoked chipotle, basil leaf and creamy vanilla from the careful oak ageing. The soft tannins gently hug your gums as the wines slips down.
This red is beautifully smooth in texture and has great richness and depth of flavour considering its medium body and moderate alcohol level at 13.5%. More cherry flavours on the palate with pomegranate seed, herbs and vanilla on the finish – perfectly balanced and extremely moreish!
I would enjoy it with a spag bol or penne al'arrabiata, but it would also be great alongside bangers and mash with gravy or just on its own.
This is undoubtedly one of the best wines in The Society's own-label range for quality, flavour and value for money. Try a bottle with your next order if you haven't already!
£8.50 - Bottle
£102 case of 12
We found ourselves opening this whisky on a rainy Monday evening in January (for the purposes of this review of course!). University Challenge had been turned off so we could concentrate fully on the task in hand.
The stylish contemporary box was opened (which looked like it could have contained an expensive men’s fragrance) and we took out the equally modern-looking bottle. We poured ourselves a midweek-sized measure; the colour was reminiscent of maple syrup or honey. It had a medium strength aroma of burnt sugar/caramel, and a slightly smokey, honeysuckle sweetness. A sweet sherry aroma develops in the glass, and the texture is creamy and smooth. There was a slightly bitter aftertaste as if biting on an orange skin. This is not a whisky that has the peaty or ashtray characteristics: it has a more subdued, subtle flavour.
We tried another glass (why not?) with water added this time, and we found it even smoother, the creamy texture and the sweet sherry and bitter orange coming through even more.
It’s a lovely drop – I would urge you to try it!
Member Services Adviser
£37 - 50cl Bottle
Italy is an amazingly deep treasure chest of wine, and my favourite wine country of them all. From top to toe of the Italian boot, whether fresh Alpine delights of pinot bianco, gutsy Mediterranean richness of primitivo or something in between, with over 300 indigenous grape varieties there truly is something for everyone.
My current midweek wine rack favourite – not that I have a wine rack specifically set aside for Tuesdays and Wednesdays, you understand – is a bright and fresh red from the owners of Monte Schiavo who are makers of The Society’s Verdicchio. Tenute Pieralisi are masters at making Rosso Piceno, a DOC wine in the Marche region blended from montepulciano (native to the region) and sangiovese (the Chianti grape).
A perfect pizza or pasta wine, the freshness of bright red fruit flavours, including plum and sour cherry, the touch of tannin and the merest hint of oak also make it ideal with grilled red meats or even soft cheeses.
I’m enjoying a post-ravioli glass of it now as I write, and am delighting in its delicious and moreish long fruity finish.
At £8.50 it offers, like so many Italian wines, excellent value for money. Cheers!
£8.50 - Bottle
£102 case of 12