If you really enjoy your vino the Wine Society is a genuine co-operative well worth joining.

There is a kind of shortcut amongst wine-lovers when they talk about buying wine.  Although everyone sources some favourites from supermarkets and independents, real wine lovers will just ask – ‘are you a member of The Wine Society?’

The Wine Society was formed almost by accident in 1874.  It was the habit of Victorians to hold Great Exhibitions to showcase goods and inventions from around the world and at one of these exhibitions, held in the Royal Albert Hall, a great deal of wine was sent from various countries.

At the end of the Exhibition there was a lot of wine left over which presented the Albert Hall with a problem.  The wine had to be cleared from the cellars.  To achieve this a group of wine-interested citizens, including the architect of the Albert Hall, Major General Henry Scott decided to hold a series of lunches to help clear the stock and at the same time publicise the wines.

The venture was a great success.  Not only did they manage to sell or drink the leftovers, they decided to expand the idea and set up a co-operative company to buy more wine and sell it on to members. This was the start of The International Exhibition Co-operative Wine Society Ltd., now generally known as The Wine Society.

Essentially The Wine Society is a mail order wine club, but with important differences.  The key word in its name is co-operative, which means it acts like a society so you have to pay to join.  This costs £40 which sounds like a lot, but it is the best £40 you will ever spend on wine. For a start they send you a £20 voucher which brings the membership fee down to just £20, and this doesn’t just last for a year.  This is a longer-than-lifetime share in the Society since you can bequeath it to your nearest and dearest when you move on to the great vineyard in the sky.  ‘We love hearing from new members who have just inherited their share.  Some membership numbers have passed down though families for several generations,’ said Ewan Murray from The Wine Society.

The other important point is that The Wine Society tries really hard not to make a profit so prices are very competitive.  It genuinely is a co-operative.  They need enough money to employ their crack team of buyers and run their vast air-conditioned warehouse and offices in Stevenage.  They also run tastings and dinners around the country, so you get the chance to taste before you buy, and meet like-minded people in your region.  The next Yorkshire tastings are in January (Leeds) and February (York).

Membership makes a terrific present for any wine lover, check the website www.thewinesociety.com

I tasted through a wide selection of their wines and here is my selection for your first order.

White Wines

The Society’s Hungarian White 2018, £6.95

Proof that The Wine Society gets out to far corners of the wine world to find great wines at low prices. Unoaked and dry this has crisp white peach and melon notes and a light dusting of spice.

Viognier Grès du Trias, Coteaux de l’Ardeche, 2018, France £9.95

Lighter and fresher than many southern French Viogniers this has flavours of sun-kissed apricots with a backing of lemon and nectarines.  Team with creamy shellfish or lightly spiced dishes.

Vescovado Guardavalle Calabria Bianco 2018, Santa Venere, Calabria, Italy, £12.95 

From the ‘toe’ of Italy, local grape Guardavalle gives distinct orange-zest and honey notes, with a clean, rounded citrus finish.  Team with fish.

The Society’s Exhibition Tasmanian Chardonnay 2018, Australia £14.50

Tasmania has a definite cool climate, with breezes coming straight off the sea.  This has crunchy green apple fruit backed by hints of peach, with a chalky textured finish.  Perfect with turkey.

Pouilly Fumé Mademoiselle de T, Ch. de Tracy 2018, Loire, France £16.50

Bright and crisp Sauvignon Blanc with lemon, lime and a distinct crunchy minerally finish.

Red Wines

Syrah Viognier L’Orangerie 2018, Lorgeril, Pay’s d’Oc, France £7.95

Rounded and supple, full of dark raspberry and plum fruit, and lifted with floral notes make this a great value supper wine. It comes from a grand estate close to Carcassonne where the Château was built by the same architect as Versailles and where King Louis XIII left his travelling bed, possibly in the hope of a return visit.

Grignan Les Adhémar, Delas, 2018, France, £8.50

This appellation used to be called Côteaux du Tricastin and it still hasn’t regained its popular appeal since the name change.  But the flavours are still there, with broad, plummy fruit and just a sprinkle of spice. Saturday night drinking at Wednesday night prices.

The Society’s Exhibition Mendoza Malbec 2017, Argentina, £10.95

Sourced from Catena Zapata whose winery is modelled on a Mayan pyramid this is a high-altitude Malbec, with characteristic dark mulberry fruit and silky tannins. Steak is the classic partner for Malbec but it goes with almost any hearty, meaty dish.

 

Newton Johnson Full Stop Rock 2017, Syrah/Grenache/Mourvèdre, Hemel en Aarde, South Africa £13.95

I love Newton Johnson for their Pinots but they do cracking Syrah too.  This has blueberry and blackberry fruit, laced with liquorice and enough tannin to stand up to a rib of beef.  It comes from a cool area so the flavours have clarity and freshness.

The Society’s Exhibition Rioja Reserva 2013, £16

Sourced from top producer La Rioja Alta this is old style, graceful, refined Rioja that manages to combine its cherry and plum fruit, oak and savoury complexity into one seamless flavour profile.  Essential with roast leg of lamb, but don’t let mint sauce near it.

Fizz

The Society’s Exhibition English Sparkling Wine 2013, £20

Sourced from Ridgeview who have been growing grapes and making top English fizz for over 25 years.  Based on the clay and limestone soil of the South Downs, they transform Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes into a brioche-scented, fresh-tasting, citrus-backed, balanced sparkling wine.

Boizel Brut NV, Champagne £35

From a small, traditional House located on the famous Avenue de Champagne in Epernay this is a stylish, elegant, light-textured champagne.

 

 

About The Author

Christine Austin

Christine is a wine writer, broadcaster and a wine judge for several international wine competitions. She has a technical background and spent five years as a buyer for a major supermarket before moving to wine writing.She writes for The Yorkshire Post Magazine and organises the York Festival of Food and Drink. She has won both the Lanson and the Roederer prizes for wine writing.

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