The Wine Society wizards and the girl who hates raisins

“I don’t like raisins,” said The Girl Who Doesn’t Like Raisins.

“You might not like raisins,” I said, “but you’ll like this.” I asked Girl Who Doesn’t Like Raisins to pour a fingertip of Blind Spot Rutherglen Muscat wine into a glass and  taste.

“I’m not sure” she said, “Don’t be scared,” I said, as she raised the glass.  “Wow, I love that,” she said.

The Girl Who Doesn’t Like Raisins had been determined she wouldn’t enjoy the deeply fruity wine from Rutherglen, north east Victoria in Australia.

But she loved it, and I’ll go to my  bar stool in the sky happier that The Girl Who Doesn’t Like Raisins has tried and enjoyed a wine that she had discarded down a mental cul-de-sac.

Blind Spot Rutherglen Muscat Wine Society
Blind Spot Rutherglen Muscat

Blind Spot Rutherglen Muscat (£6.95 for a half bottle) was just one of the joys at a Wine Society‘s Wizards of Oz tasting. I spotted it soon after I arrived and decided to save to last.

The Society’s Blind Spot range has been developed exclusively by its Australia buyer Pierre Mansour who realised there were lots of wonderful selections of grapes being added to blended wines, but which in fact would make fantastic wines on their own.

Rutherglen muscat is a speciality of the region, where grapes are semi-raisined on the vine, partially fermented and then fortified with grape spirit and aged in oak under a hot tin roof. A bit like cooking, very very slowly.

The result is an unctuous 17.5% abv of heaven, with caramel, sultanas, raisins, Christmas cake – perhaps date and walnut cake – and orange blossom. And a very happy me, and a very surprised Girl Who Doesn’t Like Raisins.

White delights at the tasting, which celebrated Australia’s wines, included:


D'Arenberg White Ochre McLaren Vale 2013
D’Arenberg White Ochre McLaren Vale 2013


  • D’Arenberg White Ochre McLaren Vale 2013 (£7.95) a blend of sauvignon blanc, riesling, marsanne and roussanne. It charms with pineapple and citrus,  with a  richness which made me think “oak”, but no.  Riesling adds  elegance, sauvignon the aromatics,  marsanne and roussanne  a nutty character.  Delicious.


Heggies Eden Valley Chardonnay 2011
Heggies Eden Valley Chardonnay 2011
  •  Heggies Eden Valley Chardonnay 2011 (£12.95)  is a bit of a shock at first glass shiver and shake. This wine takes your nose on a whirlwind tour. There’s more whirlwind than a fairground waltzer. I picked up tar; burnt popcorn; socks; rich caramelised apples; creme brulee. Five minutes of nose-dipping and chatting about the wine, I realised I hadn”t tasted it because I was so engrossed with its complexity. When I did, it was deep, creamy, honeyed and savoury, with the burnt bits from apple crumble. Deep, deep, deep.

    Tahblik Ngambie Lakes Viognier 2013
    Tahblik Ngambie Lakes Viognier 2013
  • Tahblik Ngambie Lakes Viognier 2013 (£9.95) Loving viognier as I do, I wasn’t going to walk past without proffering my tasting glass.
    (It was round about this stage when I asked where my glass had gone, and was told “it’s in your hand …” )
    A lovely young man (all men are young to me) told me that Tahblik is Aborginal for The Place of Many Watering Holes. Tahblik is a winery  north of Melbourne and excels in white Rhone grapes such as marsanne, roussanne, cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and of course viognier. This was a  crisp example of viognier with fruit cocktail squished through and through. Oranges take centre stage, nudging other fruits out of the way; but pineapple, mango, and pears are still there in the background, humming in the chorus.

To some reds.

Now there was very young man (as opposed to the young man earlier) who was helping out on a shiraz table which included Billi Billi Grampians Shiraz 2010 (£8.95). I asked him if he liked wine … bear in mind I’d been drinking at this point … and he said he had never touched a drop. But qualified his sentence with “the smell of this stuff is sending me tipsy. I’ll get a sample at the end and see what all the fuss is about”.

Back to Very Young Man later.

The Billi Billi was rich, deep red fruity and vibrant, with a masculine  firm-footed grating of white pepper flirting with an ever-so-gentle violet. Violet wasn’t overwhelmed, so good luck to  Mr Pepper.

  • Now then, for McHenry Hohnen Rocky Road Margaret River Zinfandel 2012 (£16) I wrote  Hartley’s Blackurrant Jam in my tasting notes. And by Jove it was; a juicy fruity squidge of jam and as velvety and soft and comforting as cotton wool (I wrote that too).  There were herbs too, and snapped twig.

    Yalumba The Octavius Barossa Shiraz 200
    Yalumba The Octavius Barossa Shiraz 200
  • Yalumba The Octavius Barossa Shiraz 200 (£49) was the most expensive wine in the room, and not surprisingly people kept sneaking back for more. It is one of Australia’s icon wines;  it has chocolatey and rich, deep dark fruit aromas which promise so much but deliver too.
    Grapes are grown on 100-year-old vines. Like the words of an aged but beloved grandparent, grapes can be few and far between, but once arrive, they are full of depth, and share the experience of a life lived.
    It has an aroma which promises so much and really delivers.  There’s chunky chocolate, dark fruits, violets and a depth to wallow in.  For several minutes.

Back to Very Young Man and The Girl Who Doesn’t Like Raisins.  As I left I caught up with VYM just as he was tasting a teeny drop of Billi Billi Grampians Shiraz 2010.  He gave me a thumbs-up. The Girl Who Doesn’t Like Raisins waved.
There. Two more converts to the wonderful world of wine.

  • Find out more about the Wine Society here

Sauvignon blanc choices for your must-drink list

glass of white wine

Sauvignon blanc. I love it. Now and again there’s some pain I put myself through to write about wine (let alone being stabbed by corkscrews).

Tasting extraordinary 2012 sauvignon blancs has certainly not been one of those occasions. Let’s start with a new selection from the Wine Society.

It has packaged a New Zealand sauvignon blanc case which the society believes to be “the purest and most precise examples of Marlborough sauvignon”. (It includes 12 bottles at £136, details from

Pierre Mansour, the society’s buyer for NZ, says: “The relatively cool year produced naturally low yields of fruit full of outstanding flavour, intensity and power, backed by a fine line of refreshing acidity.

“ Importantly the harvest produced grapes rich in the classic tropical fruit flavours that we all love about good Marlborough sauvignon blanc.”

Here’s thoughts on two of them.

Stoneburn Sauvignon Blanc, 2012 (£7.25, abv 13%): The vineyard is on an old riverbed so the stones retain warmth, cradling the grapes.

This wine has a clean, powerful nose with the sweet smell of freshly-cut grass from the first “gardening” weekend of Spring. It has sprightly gooseberry but with the subtle dryness of a newly-chopped green pepper. Delicious.

The Society’s New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (£8.95, abv 13%) is pale lemon tinged with green, and grapefruit and lime combine on the nose to give the enticing senses-thrill typical of sauvignon blanc. It has pronounced stone fruit flavours which linger after a burst of acidity.

Villa Maria Reserve Sauvignon blanc
Villa Maria Reserve Sauvignon blanc

Villa Maria, one of New Zealand’s largest producers, makes The Society’s New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

The estate has its own stunning contribution to my missive, with Villa Maria Reserve Wairau Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2012, (RRP £13.99, Majestic Wine, abv 13%).

A short-lived shivery zing typical of young wine releases aromas of passion fruit and gooseberry with a flinty edge.

From a distant place, blackcurrant haunts, as if someone had walked past me with a newly-picked punnet – but I couldn’t quite see where they’d gone.

This wine spent a short time on the lees which brings complexity and adds a softness of touch to the pronounced tropical and grassy flavours.

Rockridge Sauvignon (M&S, £5.99 from £7.99 until January 27, abv 12%) is from South Africa where the grapes were harvested from low yielding bush vines in the coastal region. It has a crisp, fruity, dry character with green fruit and green peapod-sweet aromas.

To taste, it reflects the gentleness of pears and melon rather than the New Zealand hit-and-crisp pin-brightness of citrus fruit.

Grapes grown in Chile can be found in Tierra y Hombre Sauvignon Blanc, 2012 (also M&S, reduced to £5.99 until January 27, abv 12.5%).

It does not have a gooseberry “hit” like its NZ cousins, but is softer on the nose with herbs and wild grass and – possibly from the Pacific air – a hint of dry saltiness. It is easy-drinking with in-the-mouth dryness of gooseberry skins.

Finally, if you take your sauvignon blanc via the recognisable brand Casillero del Diablo, then you may like to know that its Sauvignon Blanc 2011 – also from Chile – is reduced from £7.99 to £5.99 until February 5 at Co-op stores.

First published in the Liverpool Post, January 18 2013