The Wine Society

A friend of mine introduced me to The Wine Society through one of their guide to tasting cases. I’d just started to become interested in wine, but was still buying all of my wine from Tesco. I wanted to try and get more serious about wine and what I was drinking, but the prospect of having to deal with merchants, wine lists, or paying a lot of money for unreliable wines didn’t appeal. So when I’d tasted a few bottles from the society’s guide to tasting case, heard about the goals of the society, and browsed their catalog, I knew that a membership here was the next step to take to better understand wine. The same friend was kind enough to buy me a share for my birthday that year, and I have been enjoying the benefits ever since.

The Wine Society is unique in the wine trade because it is owned by and sells only to its members. The Society does not seek to maximise profit nor does it advertise outside its membership base.

Taken from The Wine Society’s website, this quote pretty much sums up what has set the framework to make the society great. Founded as a co-operative in 1874, each member has one share of the society. The buyers then stock wine for the members, which means you end up with a selection that the members want, not the supermarket fare with special offers on high-profit wines.

A Methuselah of The Society’s Champagne with a bottle of The Society’s Exhibition Crusted Port.

The society consequently stock a wide selection of wines, as well as a few extras, like sherry and port. They also have the society label, “The Society’s Côtes-du-Rhône” for example, which is a good value wine, representative of that region; very helpful for me when I started to explore wine a little. Building on the society label is the Exhibition label, which is a better quality, a “flagship” example of the region, and these have been excellent in my experience. And you don’t need to worry about delivery costs, as the society has their own delivery van.

Delivering wine is not the only thing The Wine Society do, though. They offer a cellaring service, a “wine without fuss” system, where you are delivered a selection of wines at regular intervals, a vintage guide, a food and wine matcher, and guides to buying in different regions and grape varieties. If you happen to be in France, you can save on tax by buying at the showroom in Montreuil. You can also attend one of their many wine tastings around the country, including a couple in Oxford recently.

If you’re looking to start exploring wine more seriously, or even if you are more experienced with wine, I’d thoroughly recommend The Wine Society. Every time I’ve had to contact them they have been incredibly helpful, even once changing their delivery route to help me out. It’s £40 for a membership, which amounts to £30, as you’ll receive £10 off on your first order. Really, as has been said before about The Wine Society, it’s the best wine decision you’ll ever make.

Five favourites (in no particular order):

1.  The Society’s Exhibition Crusted Port
Crusted port is port which has some sediment left in to speed up the aging process, hoping to get a vintage character without the vintage price. As a result of the sediment, you do have to decant it, so if you don’t have a decanter it will be a problem. Given that crusted port is not widely sold nowadays, I was very pleased to see The Wine Society stocking it, and it has become my regular port ever since. Great value at £13.95 a bottle.

2. Alsace Pinot Noir, Hugel, 2009
I’m a big fan of red Burgundy, but not at red Burgundy prices. New world pinot noirs haven’t quite hit the mark for me, but this Alsace pinot noir definitely has. Lovely fruit, acidity, and structure from a great Alsace vintage, this makes a great food wine too.

3. The Society’s White Burgundy, Mâcon-Villages
One of The Wine Society’s most popular products, it’s easy to see why. Classic white Burgundy character with citrus, minerality, and acidity, it’s great value for money at £7.50, and very reliable year to year. This one’s has been a family favourite for a while.

4. Hochar, 2005
The second wine of Lebanon’s Chateau Musar. These wines have a little bit of a cult following, and have been known for great value for a long time. The cinsault, carignan, cabernet and grenache blend gives a unique character, showing the hot climate of Lebanon without the fruit dominating the wine. A lovely food wine, and very versatile as to the food pairing.

5. Cidre Bouché de Normandie, 2010
Something special, it’s not cheap at £4.95 a bottle, but it’s definitely worth it. More to come on this at a later date.


8 Comments (+add yours?)

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