Domaine Lyriakis Psarades Dafni, Crete, Greece, 2020 (£9.95, The Wine Society) It’s been a while since I’ve written about the Wine Society, a company that is quite unlike any other wine retailer around. It’s a members-only club, which you have to pay to join. Why pay a £40 fee (for a lifetime’s membership) when there are countless alternative merchants with no hoops to jump through? And I suppose, for casual wine buyers that is a bit of a deal breaker. But if you buy wine regularly, the £40 soon feels like good value. The Wine Society is a mutual so profits are re-invested, keeping the prices remarkably low when compared to others (supermarkets included). Just as important, the range is really good, whether your tastes run to the classic or to quirkier, offbeat discoveries, such as this gorgeous lemon grove-scented Greek white.
Pittnauer Pittnauski, Burgenland, Austria, 2015 (£17, The Wine Society) Like many other wine merchants, the Wine Society has been working overtime to fulfil orders during the pandemic, a period when many of us have transferred our eating-out budget to buying better wines. According to its annual report, the company’s sales jumped by 28% in 2020, and its active membership grew by 25,000. The average per-bottle spend is £8 and the list is full of well chosen wines at that price, such as the Undurraga Candelabro Carmenère, Rapel, Chile 2020 (£7.95). But the real fun is in the massive sweetspot between £10 and £20, which is filled with gems, such as the Pittnauer’s wonderfully mellow and mature red blend, a kind of Austrian answer to bordeaux that punches some distance above its pricing weight.
Whistler Wines Shiver Down My Spine Shiraz, Barossa Valley, Australia, 2019 (£19.50, The Wine Society) Other highlights among the small selection of samples the Wine Society sent me from their latest list included examples of the solidly classic and the lesser known. Of the classics, The Wine Society’s Exhibition Langhe Nebbiolo, Piedmont, Italy 2018 (£13.95) is manna from heaven for fans of barolo (or barbaresco, the home of the wine’s producer, Rizzi). I was also hugely impressed by Whistler’s modern-style Aussie shiraz, which puts the emphasis on silky, slinky texture and peppery berry fruit rather than all-out power and alcohol. The Society is also doing a good job in Spain and Portugal at the moment, with wines such as Rui Madeira Beyra Rosé, Beira Interior 2020 (£9.95) one of those rare pink wines that has more going on (texture, mineral undercurrents) than the usual pink fruit.