Founded in 1874 The Wine Society are one of the reasons I got into wine in the first place, partly through membership bought for my 18th (or was it 21st?) birthday but more because it is the wine society who have been supplying much of the high quality wine my family have been buying over the years (I hasten to add it’s usually been through and Uncle and Aunt and not my parents who tended to serve Piat d’Or and other such French joys in the 1980’s that until someone gave me a glass of Australian Shiraz in the early 1990’s I was looking like a beer drinker all the way – although I should also balance that by reminding us all that in doing so they were part of the minority wine drinkers – in those days people didn’t drink so much wine at home.
Anyway onto their list – what is it like, how good is it and so on?
Well overall it’s very good indeed – it’s long and there is a lot of choice in most categories – take Languedoc Rousillon for instance – for me it’s somewhere that is capable of making some very decent wine at a very appealing price and is somewhere that merchants are turning back to. With 18 reds and 11 whites under £10 its absolutely bang on with smatterings of more expensive wines going up to £17.
In fact France is really well done throughout, there is lots of choice across the regions and it is clearly a real strength. If I were to pick holes in the selection then perhaps it lacks the final step up in quality in Languedoc Rousillon, and perhaps astonishingly it lacks a Chateauneuf of the highest quality – a Beaucastel or Telgraphe for instance. Bordeaux and Burgundy though are brilliant selections.
But what of the rest of the list – well there are good wines in there, Spain and Italy are well done, the spirits list is well constructed for a short entry and fortifieds are mouthwatering and it’s good to see wines from Morocco in a mainstream list. Rose’ and USA are also well represented (I know Rose’ isn’t a country, but sensibly it’s listed as a seperate entity and that is how I’m dealing with it.)
The ‘difficult to get right’ Chile range is not only extensive, but is also interesting and varied, Argentina though looks a little less successful though this may be because The Wine Society members buy Chile in droves and not Argentina – they just look a little odd together.
The South African range looks good in the lower to mid range, however with a top price of £12.95 it does look somewhat threadbare for customers looking for a special bottle whilst the Australian range perhaps reflects many people’s thoughts on the country at the moment and looks rather staid and dull, although there are some good wines in there.
So by now if anyone at TWS decides to read this, they’re probably thinking something along the lines of ‘What the hell does this bloke know’ – so please take note of the following paragraph.
So overall how do I rate it, it is a very good list – the points above a nitpicking – which you have to do with the Society such is the level they have put themselves at. I’ve also looked at just their printed list – there are far more wines available online – and if you are able to visit the shop you’re bound to find some real gems. In fact if you are a member then I plead with you to look online – there are bin ends, and a lot more wine that in many cases answers some of my critique above.
Over the coming weeks I’ll highlight in more detail some of the wines that have caught my eye as being something worth all members having a dig at for one reason or another.