I am a regular attendee at The Wine Society (TWS) Press Tastings – they serve a useful double purpose; a chance to find interesting wines to recommend to the world at large … and a shopping list exercise for me too (as a member).
I was expecting to have to miss the Spring tasting which took place last week, but I'm very glad I didn't.
The truth is that even as a regular wine drinker and someone who has done some wine tasting in his life … I find the complete TWS list daunting. With thousands of wines available, how are you to find something unless it is recommended or you are looking for it particularly? I have to say I often take the easy way out and try a mixed case – and I recommend this as a great way to get to know the list in more detail.
Well, these tastings focus on new listings and new vintages, so the Buyers have done a lot of the work for us, so it is always worth a shot.
The result was a long list of wines that will be going on my personal shopping list as soon as they are in stock, so here are some of my favourites in case you are tempted to join me.
Jordan Estate Barrel-fermented Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch, South Africa – 2011 – £8.75 [details here – not yet on site]
"Barrel fermented" wines can often lose any unique character of where the wine comes from or the grape it is made from and end up tasting similar. No worries here. I thought this was delicious, with lively acidity (I wrote "tinglingly fresh") but an all-round tasty wine.
Saarburger Kabinett Riesling (Zilliken), Germany – 2011 £16.00 [details here – not yet on site]
A bit pricey, but good German wines are, and if you are not sure about whether you "like" German Riesling then you need to try something like this to see what the fuss is about. "Amazing floral, fresh tangerine and green tea nose" say my notes, and if you like cooking, dig out a fish recipe with a hint of spice from Thailand or Korea to discover something amazing!
Concha y Toro Corte Ignacio Casablanca Viognier, Chile – 2010 – £8.50 [details here]
Some Viognier from warmer countries can be a bit overpowering and flabby, but this was delicate, frsh, tropical and rich. Lovely for a classy white for the dinner table.
However, my favourite wines on the day were for the red wines.
Viña Leyda Classic Reserve Syrah, Chile – 2010 – £6.50 [details here]
A bargain at this price. As well as the red fruit, this had an unusual orange zest on the nose which also brightened up the taste, because that zippy orange acidity made the red fruit & peppery notes even more lively. This may be one to have young, but a great outdoors wine, maybe for an early season BBQ.
Blaufrankisch, Ried Hochberg, Hans Igler, Austria – 2008 – £12.50 [details here]
This is no simple fruit-bomb – it combines ripe blueberry fruit with a savoury note and a hefty load of tannins, but a great foil for more robust meat dishes (don't skimp on the tasty fat). I've visited the Hans Igler winery and this is only one of a number of really interesting wines they make, and I'm happy to see them available in the UK.
Latria Garnatxa Carinyena, Montsant, Spain – 2006 – £7.50 [details here]
The story goes this is a more expensive wine, labelled under a "second label" to shift the wine and get the cash. One hears these marketing stories from time to time in wine, but in this case I can believe it. It has that "old Spanish oak" smell which many find appealing, but this wine is a lot more quality and interest than you'd expect from the price. Expect this to go fast.
Weinert Carrascal, Argentina – 2007 – £7.50 [details here]
Wow! This wine was right after a French wine from a famous region for 6 TIMES the price but totally owned it! A cigar box full of fruity treats! Great balance and complexity and with a bit more age than we are used to from Argentina (told you these wines would shine if someone would give them a chance!)
De Martino Viejas Tinajas Cinsault, Itata Valley, Chile – 2011 – £8.96 [details here]
My favourite wine, probably. A combination of unusual variety, amazing flavour, and this line from the tasting booklet: "Fermented for fun in amphoras". Well, amphoras are cool, and all the rage in certain quarters, but I'm not sure any winemaker does this "for fun". However, the result is delicious. Fresh, ripe, red berry and cherry fruit. One for the adventurer – including me.
I'll be looking forward to receiving these wines and seeing how they taste "in real life" and hopefully they will shine again. If you buy them, do let me know what you think … and if you want to know a little more, check out this video about The Wine Society wine community I helped make for them some time ago
.. and you don't just need to take my word for it, here are some other views:
Susie & Peter (them off the telly) – Wines of the Week 3
Earlybird Wine News – Wine Society Winners