Episode 117 – The Wine Society’s Press Tasting
13th July 2022
The Wine Society Press Tasting this week was loaded with beauties, so I have been super-forensic and incredibly picky this week as I select my favourite wines from all corners of the planet. Here is my buyer’s guide from TWS this summer.
The notes in italics are technical details from TWS, where available – I thought it interesting to include them for your perusal.
NV The Society’s Exhibition English Sparkling Wine, Sussex, England £24.00
Produced exclusively for TWS by Ridgeview in Sussex, this is a delicious, forward-drinking sparkler with a complete palate and a keen price tag. It is rare to find English fizz of this class at this price.
2018 Raimes, Classic, Hampshire, England £31.00
Producer: Raimes – Blend: 62% Chardonnay, 19% Pinot Noir, 19% Pinot Meunier – Harvest: 16th-18th October 2018 – Fermentation: first fermentation 3% barrel, 97% stainless steel – Malolactic? Partial – Bottled: 4th March 2019 – Ageing: 35 months on lees in bottle – RS: 10g/l – TA: 7.5g/l – pH: 3 – SO2 Total: 46mg/l – Free: 2mg/l
I am a huge fan of Raimes wines, and they have garnered no less than nine mentions on this website in only four years! This is yet another silky, polished and near-luxurious wine with a cracking price tag. I can, hand on heart, say that Champagne cannot come close to this level of joy at the thirty quid mark.
2018 Rathfinny, Blanc de Noirs, Sussex, England £37.00
Producer: Rathfinny Wine Estate – Blend: 85% Pinot Noir, 15% Pinot Meunier – Harvest: October 2018 – Fermentation: Two weeks in stainless steel – Malolactic? Yes – Ageing: 11 months in stainless steel, bottled September 2019, on lees in bottle for 30 months – RS: 3.8g/l – TA: 4.1g/l – pH: 3.11 – SO2 Total: 78mg/l – Free: 16mg/l
I am slightly biased here. I bought a load of magnums of this wine and the 2018 Blanc de Blancs ‘en primeur’, and I have opened a good few already to rave reviews from my friends. It is clear that 2018 is a stellar vintage in England, and this is certainly one of the wines of the vintage. While it is still bracingly youthful, I adore the energy and flair on display here.
2021 The Society’s Falanghina, Campania, Italy £8.95
Producer: La Guardiense – Blend: 100% Falanghina – Harvest: End September / early October 2021 – Maceration: brief cryomaceration at 10°C – Fermentation: 20 days in stainless steel at 13-15°C – Malolactic? No – Ageing: none – Bottled: February 2022 – RS: 5.5g/l – T A: 4.05g/l – pH: 3.3 – SO2 Total: 90mg/l – Free: 40mg/l
This is a benchmark Falanghina with greengage and lime notes in among the seashell and ozone freshness, and this makes it a lip-smacking summer glugger with a wicked price point.
2021 Balassa, Marty McFly Furmint, Tokaji, Hungary £11.95 (available 12th September)
Producer: Balassa Bor – Blend: 100% Furmint – Harvest: October 2021 – Fermentation: three weeks 25% stainless steel, 75% oak barrel – Malolactic? No – Ageing: Five months 25% stainless steel, 75% oak barrel – Bottled: 17th May 2021 – RS: 5.2g/l – TA: 4.77g/l – SO2 Total: 86mg/l – Free: 28mg/l
I have scoured the label for a Marty McFly mention, and when I failed to find it I asked the TWS team, too. We are all still scratching our heads. Regardless, this is my favourite dry Furmint of the year to date, not least because it is drinking perfectly, and it has none of the muscularity of the more imposing and forceful styles. Graceful and harmonious this wine is a wonderful signal of what Furmint can achieve in the right hands, and as the ‘real’ Marty McFly said, “Your future is whatever you make it, so make it a good one”.
2021 Pagos de Galir Godello, Valdeorras, Galicia, Spain £12.95
Producer: Virgen del Galir – Blend: 100% Godello – Harvest: Second week of September 2021 – Fermentation: 70% stainless steel (30 days), 30% in French oak (5 months) – Malolactic? No – Ageing: fi ve months in 500L French oak barrels – Bottled: 2nd March 2022 – RS: 1.5g/l – TA: 4g/l – SO2 Total: 95mg/l – Free: 25mg/l
This is another classic TWS discovery. It is spot on, sultry, fleshy, layered, yet not too forced, rich or heavy. It is floral but not soapy, and it is also keenly refreshing, and this is the critical element that so many Godellos lack. Finally, it is a bargain!
2021 Geyerhof StockWerk, Grüner Veltliner, Kremstal, Austria £12.95
I would be very surprised if there is a finer GV out there this year. This is one of the classiest and most beautiful wines I have tasted, yet it builds its magnetism via length and control, not weight or ripeness. Biodynamically farmed and bursting with detail, this is a stellar find and if you have ever wanted to be really gripped by this grape then this is the wine to track down.
2021 The Society’s Exhibition Albariño, Rías Baixas, Galicia, Spain £14.95
Producer: Pazo de Señorans – Blend: 100% Albariño – Harvest: September 2021 – Fermentation: 20 days at 16°C in stainless steel – Malolactic? partial (10%) – Ageing: five months, no batonnage – Bottled: May 2022 – RS: 2g/l – TA: 4.18g/l – pH: 3.35 – SO2 Total: 95mg/l – Free: 35mg/l
Simple note here – this is a forward-drinking, totally accurate, beautifully balanced Albariño made by a superstar estate, Pazo de Señorans. It is a fiver cheaper than a wine with a very similar flavour and a PdS label. You do the maths.
2019 Gewurztraminer, Léon Beyer, Alsace, France £15.50
Producer: Léon Beyer – Blend: 100% Gewurztraminer – Harvest: September 2019 – Fermentation: two months in foudres and glass tanks – Malolactic? No – Ageing: eight months in foudres and glass tanks – Bottled: 8th April 2021 – RS: 4g/l – TA: 4.73g/l – pH: 3.51 – SO2 Total: 157mg/l – Free: 23mg/l
I rarely recommend Gewurzs because I only ever find a couple each year that truly nails the essence of this variety while bringing momentum and energy to their delivery. Beyer is a well-known name, and the wines are always correct. But there is more to discover here, and I urge you to buy a bottle – it might change your opinions about this wine if you have always found it too oily and sickly!
2019 Neudorf, Tiritiri Nelson Chardonnay, New Zealand £17.50
Producer: Neudorf Vineyards – Blend: 100% Chardonnay – Harvest: March 2019 – Fermentation: whole-bunch pressed, 100% French oak, medium toast, 13% new – Malolactic? Yes, 100% natural – Ageing: 10 months on lees – Bottled: March 2020 – RS: Dry – TA: 3.86g/l – pH: 3.16 – SO2 Total: 78mg/l – Free: 28mg/l
The inexpensive theme continues here with a super-keenly priced wine from Chardonnay experts Neudorf. This is ‘white Burgundy from Nelson’, and it shows amazing balance and freshness while bringing a classical stance to its core. Interestingly, there were a couple of Burgundies in the line-up, and this wine blitzed them with its sheer class.
2019 Pyramid Valley, North Canterbury Sauvignon +, Canterbury, New Zealand £18.00
Producer: Pyramid Valley – Blend: 97% Sauvignon Blanc, 3% Riesling – Harvest: 4th to 17th April 2019 – Fermentation: Two to three weeks in tank, neutral barrels and clay amphorae. 8% on skins – Malolactic? Partial – Ageing: four months, 50% in barrel, 50% in tank – Bottled: 4th September 2019 – RS: <2g/l – TA: 4.6g/l – pH: 3.12 – SO2 Total: 70mg/l – Free: 28mg/l
I have long been an advocate for adding a dribble of Riesling in NZ Sauvignon because it immeasurably alters the complexity of the perfume and the length of the wines. Pyramid Valley’s stunning wine uses this trick to build a wine of immense finesse and breeding. I am hugely impressed with this wine, and it puts oceans of Loire stalwarts in the shade with its expressive flavours and prodigious length.
2021 Simpsons, Gravel Castle Chardonnay, Kent, England £18.00
Producer: Simpsons’ Wine Estate – Blend: 100% Chardonnay – Harvest: 28th October – 1st November 2021 – Fermentation: in stainless steel tank – Malolactic? Partial – Ageing: Three months in stainless steel on lees – Bottled: 1st April 2021 – RS: 1.3g/l – TA: 6.3g/l – pH: 3.25 – SO2 Total: 93mg/l – Free: 24mg/l
I have long been a fan of Simpsons Chardonnays, but I have warned that with vine age and practice, these wines needed to add more mid-palate weight to counter the oft-brutal acidity on the finish. This fulcrum moment happened a couple of vintages ago, and I am so impressed with the fruit quality and flavour that has come to the fore in the last few years. 2021 Gravel Castle is sensational, and while it is lazy of me to keep saying this is ‘English Chablis’, I cannot find a Chablis at £18 with the excitement found here, so I will have to find a new expression going forwards.
2019 Grabenwerkstatt Bruck, Riesling, Wachau, Austria £59.00 (available 22nd August)
Producer: Grabenwerkstatt – Blend: 100% Riesling – Harvest: mid-October 2019 – Fermentation: in stainless steel – Malolactic? No – Ageing: six months in stainless steel – Bottled: May 2020 – RS: 1g/l – TA: 4.84g/l – SO2 Total: 62mg/l – Free: 40mg/l
I only took one label photo at the tasting, and this was it. I cannot remember tasting a more extraordinary, bone-dry, new discovery, Austrian white wine. Super-complex, pin-sharp, impossibly grand and kaleidoscopically fascinating, I gave this a very rare 19/20 score in my notes, and while it is not a cheapie, if this note intrigues you, I implore you to buy a bottle. There are only 18 six-packs in the country.
2021 Quinta do Portal Rosé, Douro, Portugal £9.50
Producer: Quinta do Portal – Blend: 50% Touriga Nacional, 50% Tinta Roriz – Harvest: 11th to 21st September 2021 – Maceration: 20 minutes in basket of a vertical press – Fermentation: Four weeks – Malolactic? No – Ageing: four months in stainless steel – Bottled: 7th March 2022 – RS: 0.79g/l – TA: 5.8g/l – pH: 3.21 – SO2 Total: 81g/l – Free: 20mg/l
Not just a bit of fun, this is a rather amazing Portuguese rosé with an awful lot of flavour and beguiling minerality to boot. There is enough grunt here to use this for all-day buffets or barbies while, at the same time, it is bright enough to serve without grub. Delicious!
2020 Altolandon Bobal, Manchuela, Valencia, Spain £8.95 (available 12th September)
Producer: Altolandon – Blend: 100 % Bobal – Harvest: September/October 2020 – Maceration: 24 hours cold maceration – Fermentation: spontaneous with gentle pumping over for five weeks in 6,000L tanks – Malolactic? Yes – Ageing: four months in third-use French barrels – Bottled: May 2022 – RS: 1.8g/l – TA: 3.78g/l – SO2 Total: 56mg/l – Free: 20mg/l
I wrote up a wine from this estate a couple of years ago and it is refreshing to report that while there has been a name change, the flavour, bounce, brightness, and price have changed one iota. Here is my note for the 2018 – ‘a spectacular treat, loaded with blueberry and plum notes and freshened with minty highlights!’ I cannot improve on this description for this delightful 2020, so be sure to register your interest asap, as it is bound to fly.
2019 Fonte do Ouro, Dão, Portugal £8.95
Producer: Sociedade Agrícola Boas Quintas – Blend: 40% Touriga Nacional, 30% Alfrocheiro, 30% Jaen – Harvest: September 2019 – Maceration: 48 hours – Fermentation: 10 days – Malolactic? Yes – Ageing: six months in oak barrels – bottled: 24th March 2022 – RS: 5.1 g/l – TA: 3.48g/l – pH: 3.7 – SO2 Total: 110.4mg/l – Free: 46.4mg/l
This is a raspy, energetic, cranberry and sour cherry-scented wine, and I adore its attitude and dynamism. If Altolandon is civilised and smooth, then Fonte do Oro is naughty and mischievous, and it lends itself to complex food pairings and also, perhaps, a slightly more wine-savvy audience. There is a lot to love here, not least its rock-bottom price.
2021 Fleurie, Domaine Montangeron, Beaujolais, France £11.50 (available 29th August)
Producer: Frédéric Montangeron, Domaine Montangeron – Blend: 100% Gamay – Harvest: 22nd September 2021 – Maceration: 14 days in concrete tank – Fermentation: 30 days in foudre – Malolactic? Yes – Ageing: six months in concrete and foudre – Bottled: 25th March 2022 – RS: 1.3g/l – TA: 3.54g/l – pH: 3.59 – SO2 Total: 45mg/l – Free: 20mg/l
There will not be a finer value Beaujolais released this year. This is my pronouncement after tasting this wine and then looking at the price tag. This is not a long-lived wine style nor a particularly rich or mineral-soaked wine. It is, however, a thrilling drink already, and I almost didn’t spit it out, such was the immense pleasure it gave me. And guess what? I wrote up the 2019 last year, which was a more expensive quid. I would advise you to reserve you case(s) NOW.
2018 The Liberator ‘The Francophile’ Natural Sweet Chenin Blanc, Paarl, South Africa £8.50 (half bottle)
Producer: Glen Carlou Vineyards – Blend: 100% Chenin Blanc – Harvest: 17th April 2018 – Fermentation: halted after five weeks in concrete tanks – Malolactic? No – Ageing: 42 months in bottle – Bottled: 11th June 2018 – RS: 155g/l – TA: 5.6g/l – pH: 3.6 – SO2 Total: 110mg/l – Free: 10mg/l
If you are after a budget sweetie for indulgent fruit of choccie puds, there is nothing on earth to touch the value afforded by this sensational wine. That’s it!
1998 Rivesaltes Ambré, Domaine de Rancy, Roussillon, France £21.00 (50cl bottle)
After having been aged in casks for 20 years, this bonkers ‘Tawny’ has serious depth, amazing raisiny and figgy notes and a long, smoky, coffee bean finish. Chilled to perfection, this is an awesome sundowner for serious wine lovers.