What to drink in 2018
New finds to look out for and vintages coming on stream in the next 12 months
Our Head of Buying, Pierre Mansour, tells us what we should be exploring and enjoying in the year ahead with his guide to what to drink in 2018.
Whether you love a classic French red or something more ground breaking from less usual winelands, 2018 has plenty of delicious drinking in store so we've rounded up Pierre's recommendations below and included a mixed case for those that want to try a selection.
Browse Pierre’s recommendations in our Exploration page & read on for more of his insights.
Society buyers are driven by a constant curiosity to find the best-tasting wines from around the world, inspired by the thrill of a new discovery, a new vintage or an exciting new wine style, always using a discerning eye to ensure the focus puts quality first. So here I've split my recommendations into two sections: the first highlights vintages to drink from the classic regions, the second part puts the spotlight on some of the more ground-breaking and inventive wines that are at the cutting edge of the wine world.
Part 1 – Coming on strong: vintages that are hitting their stride from across Europe
Bordeaux: the 2016 and 2015 vintages are great for petits châteaux, with plenty of ripe fruit and soft tannins – they are immediately appealing and provide plenty of pleasure. The more up-scale wines from those vintages are still too young to broach.
The 2011s, which were a little firm when first bottled, are starting to show their colours - it's a traditional vintage in the good sense, with the left bank wines showing attractive savoury character. 2012 produced charming, less structured wines than 2011, offering supple fruit and lovely freshness. The 2010s are showing well at the mid-price level but the majority of the more senior wines from this great vintage will benefit from further bottle age. The 2009s are beautiful now, with generous texture and bags of class. Going back further, 2007 and 2004 are still delicious, as are 2001 and 2000.
White Burgundy & Beaujolais: there has been a succession of lovely white Burgundy vintages and 2014 is perhaps the pick of them all. 2012 and 2015 are a little richer while 2011, 2013 and 2016 are a little fresher, but all are delicious. In Beaujolais, the 2016s have everything you could hope for with freshness, juicy perfumed fruit and lovely balance. We will be doing a 2016 Cru Beaujolais offer later in the spring which all lovers of fine Beaujolais should consider buying from.
Beaujolais – a great success in 2016. Look out for our offer later in the spring.
In the northern Rhône, the 2005s, in their shell for so long, are now beginning to be approachable and giving pleasure. With ten years under their belt, the 2008s are at their peak and won't improve anymore so drink up over the next two or three years. In the south, 2006 and 2007 are super vintages for drinking now.
In the Loire, the top 2014 & 2015 cabernet franc reds are starting to drink well and, if you are lucky to still have some 2009 reds they are now at their peak.
In Alsace, 2008 is the pick of the bunch while the best of the excellent 2010s are still a little young. There are of course superb 2015s for early drinking too.
Italy: 2015 and 2016 were great vintages in Piedmont and in Tuscany, earlier drinking wines are already available and look out for releases of those for keeping later in the year. We still have rare older vintages from the northern districts of Piedmont, Ghemme and Gattinara.
In Spain, the excellent 2001s and 2005s from Rioja are hitting their stride.
Tuscany superb in 2015 & 2016 - looking out from Villa di Vetrice home of our Society's Chianti Rufina
Part 2 – Exciting wine discoveries to look out for in 2018
Part of The Society's job is to explore new regions and to discover new wine styles for members to enjoy. When the buyers come across something innovative or unusual that tastes wonderful, is authentic and good value, even if it's from less mainstream areas or grapes, we like to encourage members to be adventurous by importing these wines.
A look back through our Lists shows The Society as quite a pioneer: the first to sell Chateau Musar from Lebanon in 1971, one of the first to offer wines en primeur (with 1975 vintage clarets), and we were shipping from Australia as long ago as 1914 at least. (You can read a bit more about our history here.) In more recent times, we were one of the first merchants to introduce our own-label Society's New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (predicting the popularity of this wine) and offer 'en rama' (unfined and unfiltered) sherry, to offer members the chance to experience this wine in its most expressive form.
So what should you be looking out for in 2018?
Starting local, England's top sparkling producers are moving their production to multi-vintage blends, therefore creating a more consistently good product (this, incidentally, is exactly what the grandes marques do in Champagne). As a result, we are seeing more and more excellent English sparkling wine. Our Exhibition English sparkling wine from Sussex has proven to be such a hit that we have temporarily sold out (it will be back in June). In the meantime, Hambledon Classic Cuvée NV is more than worthy and shows that Hampshire is capable of crafting a world-class fizz.
2017 was a short crop in the major countries of Western Europe, but on the contrary good in Eastern Europe. So watch out for new finds from Hungary and the Balkans. The refreshing and aromatic Society's Slovenian White which we introduced last year is a great place to start.
Portugal, Spain and Italy continue to excite us with tremendous breadth. Whites and reds made from local grapes are high on drinkability and originality, plus superb value for money. Straying into Portugal's cooler and lesser-known regions has thrown up some delicious finds such as Colares (the new vintage arrives end of January), Beira Interior and Portalegre, as well as great value semi-sparkling wine from the Minho region.
2015 & 2016 fabulous in Germany
Marcel Orford-Williams found something really different on his travels this year (which he wrote about in Travels in Wine here): wines from Weingut Jülg in the Pfalz whose vineyards straddle national borders and unsurprisingly are quite Alsace-like in character (their 2016 Weissburgunder is in the new February 2018 List). 2015 and 2016 are both fabulous in Germany – try von Kesselstatt's Kaseler Nies'chen Riesling Kabinett 2015 for a real treat.
New world order
The new world, never shy to experiment in the vineyard and winery, continues to push boundaries. In Chile, growers are starting to plant more Rhône grapes (grenache, carignan, mourvèdre and syrah) in the south which is ideally adapted to them. Try the excellent Undurraga Cauquenes Estate Maule Carignan-Mourvèdre 2015, a lovely plump, juicy red.
Two brilliant recent finds from Australia I'd like to highlight are The Society's Hunter Valley Semillon 2017 and Blind Spot Barossa Shiraz 2016.
And exploring South Africa's wine heritage is the inspiration behind a new Society red wine which we will be introducing later in the year (watch this space!).
And finally I have been bowled over by two exhilarating zinfandels that Sarah Knowles MW has managed to wrestle from the Americans (most is sold domestically). They are made by Joel Peterson (of Ravenswood fame) and his son Morgan Twain-Peterson respectively – Once and Future Forcini Zinfandel 2016 and Shebang! California Red Field Blend NV are their snappy names!
Sherry – still the bargain of the fine wine world
And finally, finally, sherry still has to be one of the best wines when it comes to sheer bang for your buck. This year we will be introducing an additional Manzanilla to the range – half bottles of the Soléar Manzanilla from Barbadillo, which has a lovely fresh, tangy character. Half bottles are ideal if you want to ensure that you enjoy the wine at its very freshest as they can be opened and consumed in one or two sittings, depending on the number of people sharing.
Later this year we are also introducing a Wine Society Solera in the cellars of Sánchez Romate, our supplier of all The Society's own label sherries, one for the Exhibition Medium Dry Oloroso and one for the Medium Sweet Oloroso. This will mean we can more accurately age and blend each bottling, assuring consistency and quality.
Head of Buying
Pierre's case for 2018 – try a mixed case of six whites and six reds for drinking now including highlights from Pierre's pick of the regions (Ref MX1842, £109 until Sunday 4th March, 2018). If you want to browse through the recommendations above, they are featured in our Exploration page.
Pierre's case for 2018
Try this mixed case for a taste of our head buyer's picks for the year ahead.
Ref N-MX1842, £109 until Sunday 4th March, 2018.
The Society's Slovenian White 2016
Domaine Cordier, Mâcon Milly-Lamartine Clos du Four 2015
The Society's Hunter Valley Semillon 2017
Pazo de Villarei Rías Baixas 2016
The Society's Pinot Grigio 2016
Bleasdale Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2016
Château de Pitray, Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux 2012
Château de Lacarelle, Beaujolais-Villages 2016
Undurraga Cauquenes Estate Maule Carignan-Mourvèdre 2015
Shebang California Red Field Blend NV
3C Premium Selection, Cariñena 2014
Almeida Garrett Entre Serras, Beira Interior 2014
Buy now for £109
If you'd like to read more about our buyers' wine buying trips, visit our Travels in Wine pages to read about the people and places behind our wines