Wine Society’s explorers who discover wonderful tastes

Côte Roannaise, Vieilles Vignes Wine Society review

There’s a group of  explorers scouring the world, Wine Society buyers tracking down the best on offer from every continent, bringing wonderful tastes back to you and me in Blighty.

I think you’d be hard pushed to find anyone that does it better than the Wine Society. Terrific wines at  pocket-happy prices.

A co-operative, founded in 1874, it is owned by its members, sells only to them. But it is far from exclusive. Just £40 brings life membership, opening some wonderful doors.

Take the Blind Spot range from vineyards across Australia.

The name Blind Spot  refers to how the society’s Mac Forbes saw the potential in   grapes which could have been blended into anonymity –  but instead were  made into  terrific wines. Blind Spot Grenache-Shiraz-Mataro, 2011, Rutherglen (£7.50,  14%) is a  Rhone blend, with spicy layers and  unashamedly fruit driven.

Blind Spot Riesling, 2012, Clare Valley (£7.50, 12%) is delicate, dry, fresh, grapey and lapping in lime cordial.  Clare Valley riesling can be a wonderful thing and this is a wonderful example, at a wonderful price.

Côte Roannaise, Vieilles Vignes wine review
Côte Roannaise, Vieilles Vignes wine review

Here are some  other  society selections:  Côte Roannaise, Vieilles Vignes, 2012 Sérol (£8.50, 14%). Côte Roannaise is  an  appellation of the southern Loire. Gamay  grapes, normally associated with beaujolais,  thrive on  sandy-granite soils.  It is packed, packed, packed with red fruit. My notes said this wine reminded me of the delicious fruit running through the summer  pud Eton Mess  – but without the mess.  I actually wrote that down.

The Foundry Roussanne, Stellenbosch, 2011 (£11.50,  13.5%).  Think of the roussanne grape as a shy young lady, meek alongside her bolder, more confident friends. She is usually blended in the Rhône where she adds lift and perfume. In  this wine from South Africa she is  the solo feminine star.  A lovely wine, with refreshing acidity, green fruits and tongue-tip dry green apple skins.

Prince Stirbey Tamâioasa Româneasca Sec, 2012 (£9.50, 13.5%) I can write it, I can’t pronounce it, though I certainly enjoyed it. This white from the foothills of  Romania abounds with  tantalising tangerines, is very citrussy to taste with a dry, pithy, grapefruit bite.

Faldeos Nevados Torrontés, 2012 (£7.50,  14%) is a  blend of grapes from across three Argentine valleys. On the nose, peach and citrus whisper and in the mouth their gentleness mingles with a richness similar to viognier. Think luxurious sherbert dip.

Finally, Curto Barbera D’alba la Foia, 2011 , (£.8.50,  14%). Violets, spicy fruit, a pot pourri of rose petals and red liquorice – you know, the childhood shoelace ones.

You can find out more about the society at or call 01438 741177.

First published in the saturday magazine, May 18, 2013

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Start off New Year by stepping out of wine comfort zones

Max Ferd Richter Mülheimer Sonnenlay Riesling 2011

HAPPY New Year. Your resolution was to stop drinking for a month? And you gave in eerrm … about 8pm last night?

Never mind. Change that 2013 resolution to exploring the world of wine. Don’t stick to what you know – that same bottle on the same shelf – but ring the changes.

I asked for thoughts from some people in the know – go on, be daring this New Year.

Jon Atkinson from Wine Time at Scatchards on Great Howard Street, told me: “Most consumers rarely venture far from their “comfort zone”.

“Pretty much every wine-producing country will produce varieties that you might not have encountered before; for me Italy & Portugal do this more frequently than most. Italy: The best value is to be had in the South and if you like your reds big and bold then Primitivo is worthy of further investigation.

“For Portugal, I’m a huge fan of the indigenous white Arinto which is particularly good when grown in the northerly Vinho Verde territory – if you can lay your hands on a bottle from Quinta da Raza you’ll not be disappointed.”

Dan Harwood, Business Development Manager at Vinea on Albert Dock says: “Our wines of 2013 are those from the Somontano region of north east Spain.

“These progressive and consumer conscious producers are making characterful wines for intriguing varieties as well as old favourites. We will be celebrating their wines at a tasting in March.” (Details at

Devin Stewart, from R&H Fine Wines on Queen Avenue, told me: “If all those who switch to autopilot and ask for sauvignon blanc or rioja considered north west Spain – Rias Baixas, Ribeiro, – and grapes like treixadura, albarino and mencia, I’m quite confident they would find a new world of wine wonder.”

I have to agree – I tasted The Flower and the Bee Treixadura 2011 (£11.99 with Devin. This white is from Ribeiro and it was almost full bodied, with a freshness of a stream trickling over pebbles, with glints of lemons and apples.

Gray Simpson is the manager of Corks Out in Heswall. On one of the wine trade’s busiest days – New Years Eve – he took time out to tell me: “Fiano is my grape of 2013. Sunshine in a glass from Sicily.” Corks Out sells Canapi Fiano 2011 for £9.99.

Finally, my thoughts on new tastes. Next week I begin another course at Liverpool Wine School (www. which is an approved provider of Wine and Spirits Education Trust qualifications. They are used by the trade but for those of us who’ve “got the bug” the insight into the world of wine is fascinating – and huge fun too.

In my glass

if you failed to cut out wine, you might want to reduce the alcohol content.

Germany, with its cooler climate, is well placed to produce quality wines with lower alcohol.

Max Ferd Richter Mülheimer Sonnenlay Riesling 2011 review

The Max Ferd Richter Mülheimer Sonnenlay Riesling 2011 (£10.99, is 10.5% but has a good balance of fruit and cleansing freshness. It is off-dry and minerality is matched with citrus and stonefruit. It was poured on transatlantic flights in the Zeppelin heyday – the wine is still marketed with an Art Deco label.

Winemaker’s Selection Vinho Verde (£3.98, Sainsbury’s) is only 9%. It has a light, citrus sparkle and although it doesn’t deliver massive punches on the nose and palate, it’s a refreshing glass to assuage the guilt of failed New Year resolutions.

Published in the Liverpool Post January 4, 2013