Tag Archives: Wine Society

Magic or medicine?


Ixsir, produced from vineyards high in the Lebanese Mountains, is, to me, typical of Lebanese wine. Made from a blend of Cab Sav and Syrah it is drawn from various plots but then matured for at least 12 months in French oak, presumably to soften what would be pretty fierce tannins.

The intense ruby colour and noticeable legs suggested heat but the nose was surprisingly quite dumb. It may have needed longer opening than the 45 mins Richard gave it. There were faint notes of menthol and liquorice but no strongly varietal hints. Tannins were to the fore as was a richness but I was struggling to find the freshness which I like in red wines. The ‘funky’ cliche that is applied to Lebanese wines I take to be a slight whiff of oxidised fruits which wouldn’t be surprising in that hot climate. There was a slight heat at the finish, from only 13% ABV.

This really is a food wine and, I suggest, food with Middle Eastern flavours. Btw the word elixir is derived from the Arabic iksir and means ‘a magical or medicinal potion’ – Paul Daniels (RIP) or the NHS, take your pick.

[Richard: Chateau Musar, from Lebanon, is one of my favourite wines and has been blogged here several times. But I’ve never tasted any other wines from that country. So when TWS offered a mixed case of Lebanese reds I placed an order.

A decent wine which certainly needed food and a long decant. I’ve vacuumed sealed the remains of the bottle to try later in the week. But, as it stands, I’d rather have Musar – made from different grapes of course – at much the same price.]




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‘Fill me a bottle of sack …. We’ll to Sutton Co’ fil’ tonight’


Richard’s passion for ‘a good sherris sack’ (Falstaff, Henry IV part 2) is well-documented on these pages. The Wine Society recently promoted, at the relatively high price of £24, a manzanilla made by Bodega Alonso named ‘Velo Flor’. Sherry, like champagne, is chiefly about process rather than the raw materials and part of that process is the marketing. As the photograph shows, this wine was dressed in a low-shouldered bottle with a waxed cork stopper, quite different from the more conservative look.

The wine had a light gold colour, some viscosity and was bright and clear. The usual floor polish smell along with roasted nuts was obvious on the nose, as was the relieving fresher lemony high notes. We had the impression of an intensity, more so than normal. The palate showed the difference from previously tasted manzanilla styles. Yes, it had the trademark dry saltiness but this was rounder, richer and very long. A bigger flavoured wine than normally is the case, this could not be called a fresh style from the taste alone. (It had been opened 72 hours)

To return to Sir John F. (in The Merry Wives of Windsor). ‘Wilt thou, after the expense of so much money, be now a gainer?’ It’s a fine drink, but I question its VFM.

(Exeunt stage left)

[Richard: one of the golden rules of fino or manzanilla drinking is that it should be consumed as quickly as possible after opening, because of the speed of oxidation. This wine was unusual, in that it improved after three days in the fridge becoming more aromatic, more full flavoured. A very classy manzanilla, I’ve seen it suggested it is a pasada (older) style – which it tastes like –  and that it is en rama, but neither is claimed on the label.

Clearly vinified with care but I did wonder if it was made up to a price – cork closure not a stopper, waxed capsule – very rare, unusually shaped bottle with a designer label. At £15 throughly recommendable but at £24 I think I’ll be sending my other bottle back.]

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The naked truth


An interesting name for a wine. Radford Dale Nudity 2014, from the Voor-Paardeberg region in South Africa. Why Nudity? Because it hasn’t any added sulphur and just the bare wine, I presume. The grape is Syrah and it has 12% ABV.

To look at it appeared right where it should be, i.e. no brown or purple rim – just red and an intense red at that. There was some viscosity. The aromas were pleasantly complex; fragrant, perfumed and very much cooked strawberries, suggesting some ageing. It had a thin mouth feel with both acidity and tannins. The dominant notes were strawberries (prompting my Grenache guess) and lighter cherries but there was bags of flavour. It had slightly sweet notes which tended to pall after a couple of mouthfuls. For me, it lacked a bit of bottom (nothing to do with its name, you understand) and gravity.

It wasn’t cheap and, although good, I question its VFM.

[Richard: yes, £18 (TWS) and not really worth it. A decent wine with some interesting nuances, which drunk very easily – amazing how much difference a reduction in alcohol from, say, 14% to 12% makes. However if you very looking forward to some typical syrah tastes and flavours, I’m afraid they’d been stripped away and the result was a bit Emperor’s new clothes, a phrase used on TWS website, where it has three bad reviews.]

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Most tasted?

We’ve tried a lot of cabernet franc recently so when Geoff poured a glass of something very red – stain the glass red – with a rather green, sappy taste I was pretty sure what we were drinking. Yes, that grape again – but not from the Loire, I was sure, but New World. After that I was stumped. The wine had a rather tarry, smokey taste with some fruit, not unpleasant but not classic CF. in fact – from Chile and a combination never before tasted. And never again I think since we both preferred the way the grape is vinified in France.

[Geoff: Okay, no more CF for a while. Promise.The wine was okay but had transgressed the boundaries of a Loire CF and had lost some of particular style. It became another beefy, fruity, slightly tannic red wine.

It’s interesting that we become (or is it just me) fixated on a style of wine and see any variation on that style as an aberration. For me, the home of CF is the Loire and I like the wine it produces; though not all of it, by any means. I suppose this is what happens when Chardonnay lovers compare all wines to white Burgundies and make it difficult for new styles to establish themselves.]


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After the Gold Rush


Wine-making in Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula grew with the excitement around gold prospecting in the 1800s, a population explosion and the wealth that came with it. The subsequent fashion for fortified wines meant a decline until the 1960s when wines made from cool climate Burgundy grapes, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, were re-discovered. And here we are, 50 years on, with what could be thought of as atypical Australian wine made an hour’s drive south of Melbourne.

Okay, Ocean Eight 2015. Let’s start with the ABV – 12.5%, that’s low for Oz. A colour of lemon-green and some viscosity hints at both acidity and sugars. At first, the nose was muted, slightly matchstick and lemon but this became more pronounced as it sat in the glass. The taste was layered – dry, long and full bodied with lemon and richer honey notes, quite rounded and deep. A complex wine, with almost too much going on which hinted that the wine might need more time. But it was still delicious – and very Burgundian.

[Richard: only 900 cases made and now sold out at TWS. A very good expression of cool climate chardonnay in the French style. Lots of flavour and complexity and very drinkable.]


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Very pale raspberry – could be a dark rosé in other parts of France – and transparent. Pure, delicate nose – feminine as some (male) wine critics would say, with a pretty rose petals aroma. The taste did not really say ‘pinot’ to me, despite it being obvious that it was such. Very drinkable and moreish.

We’ve both been members of TWS for some years but we rarely buy wines from their’ Exhibition’ (own label) series. Not sure why but this was a good advertisement. Unfortunately it’s no longer available and it seems that TWS no longer offer any red burgundy in the Exhibition range.

[Geoff: St Aubin is a village at the southern end of the Cote de Beaune; the area is more renowned for its white wines such as Meursault, Puligny and Chassagne. Such is the demand for Burgundy that these once less popular communes’ red wines have now become sources of reasonably priced wines. I use ‘reasonably’ with some irony. This wine was more ‘pretty’ than firm and earthy but nonetheless attractive to drink. I drank it later with chicken salad; its delicacy was an ideal accompaniment. The usual Pinot characteristics seemed to apply i.e. wonderful nose preceding a good taste.]

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Recommended, but…not by us.

This wine (Château de Montfaucon, 2012, Lirac, WS £13.50) was highly recommended but we were both unimpressed. An attractive, clear, bright red, young looking wine led into a cassis nose which I was sure was cabernet sauvignon – it wasn’t. Rather tannic, medium length, one-dimensional, lacking in generosity with a rather bitter finish. I couldn’t identify any of the constituent grapes – Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Carignan and Mourvèdre.

The writer of the above blog claims it would be good value at £20. It wouldn’t.

[Geoff: Not much more to add to Richard’s comments. It did not improve or even change over three days. It also gave me a headache – twice, in fact. Not impressed. Why would you need to use five grape varieties to make a blend? The grapes are not very different instyles, either.]

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