I’m a big fan of wine. I’m half Italian; of course I love wine, but I’m no expert. I know what I like, and I dislike plonk, but I do tend to veer towards Old World wines and drink predominantly Italian. It’s always good when I get the opportunity to taste things I wouldn’t normally try or buy myself, so I was delighted to hear from The Grape Club - a wine club.
The Fab Four
Subscribers to The Grape Club receive four hand-picked bottles of wine each month (called a Grape Drop – Mmmm grape drop). The wines aren’t the usual supermarket fodder, but nor are they really expensive. If you particularly like any of the wines, then you can buy them straight from The Grape Club at a 15% discount. You also get their personalised tasting notes so you can learn a bit about the type of wine, the producer, what sorts of flavours you might get and what would pair well. All educational but in a non-patronising way.
I’ve been a member of a wine club before with London- and Surrey-based Philglas & Swiggot, but a case of six red, six white – also with tasting notes – which my husband and I got every other month cost £250 (you could also opt for every month at that price). When our twins were born and we became a family of five, our spending priorities changed quite a bit and we cancelled. The Grape Club is far more accessible: four bottles a month cost £45; they’re delivered straight to your door and postage and packaging is included in that price. For this amount, you’re obviously not going to get the very highest calibre wines (and in my opinion neither did we with the far pricier Philglas & Swiggot offering), but what you will get is introductions to different, varied and extremely good ‘every day’ wines, as opposed to very special occasion wines. You’ll see how you can get something far better than a very mediocre, ubiquitous supermarket wine, at the same price.
So, on with the tasting of February’s Grape Drop. I’ll try not to come over too Jilly Goolden…
1) Vergelegen – Premium Carbenet Sauvignon Merlot 2010
I’d never been very tempted by South African wine up until a few years ago when I was recommended one called Meerlust in a wine shop. It wasn’t very expensive and I was very pleasantly surprised. I was therefore eager to see what this Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend would be like. We actually opened it before food and had it on its own, which can expose wines a bit. This one had nothing to hide. Made in the Bordeaux style, it was lovely and rich, almost chocolatey, without being heavy. It was very flavoursome, but not overpowering. We actually had a curry later on and had the last third of the bottle with it. I don’t tend to think that curry and wine really go as the strong flavours of the curry often overwhelm, but this one held its own and actually complemented nicely. The tasting notes did say that it goes very well with most meat or chicken dishes or a hearty winter stew, so quite an allrounder. A definite hit! With the Grape Club’s Member’s 15% discount it costs £62.94 for a case.
2) Torres – Pazo das Bruxas, Rias Baixas 2013
I don’t tend to drink much white wine in winter, mainly because I like fuller-bodied wines, which go with my heartier, red meat and carb-heavy fare when it’s cold. I personally find that quite a lot of the supermarket white wines (around the £6-£12 price mark) and definitely most pub white wines are rather insipid. This Spanish white is made from the aromatic Albarino grape. It was beautifully crisp, but you get a slight sweetness when you first sip. I hate sweet white wines (I’m not including dessert wines here), but this isn’t a sweet wine, you just get a hint of it before the more dominant fresh crispiness hits.
We actually had the majority of this on its own and it was absolutely lovely. It’s light, but has more about it than the omnipresent low grade Pinot Grigio that you get (there are some fantastic Pinot Grigios out there by the way), but didn’t have the heaviness that I find, and don’t particularly like, with many Australian white wines. I thought it drank so well without being paired with anything. However, we had veal sweetbreads as a starter (Valentine’s Day cooking by my husband) and the remaining glass did go very well. It would go beautifully with seafood. A case of six bottles costs £67.37 with the Grape Club’s Member’s discount.
Taste, learn and enjoy
3) Trapiche Melodias Winemakers Selection 2013
Ahhh Malbec. I started sampling Argentinian Malbec about 10 years ago. As I mentioned, I haven’t traditionally gone for New World wines, but I found that Malbec definitely had an Old World wine taste (probably to do with the grape variety’s history) and I loved it. A couple of years after tasting my first Malbec, I went on honeymoon to Argentina and as part of it stayed at the amazing Cavas Wine Lodge in Mendoza aka Malbec country. Like with most types of wines, there are good, mediocre and bad versions. This is certainly a good one! Beautifully rich and well-rounded, it had that classic dark fruit flavour and – yes, to go all Jilly on you – oodles of blackberries and black cherry. This can most definitely be drunk on its own. We savoured a glass each before having the rest with the classic beef pairing. Gorgeous! A case is £58.70 with the 15% discount.
4) Rothschild Mouton Cadet – Reserve Sauternes 2012
This is what I’d call a sticky. Whilst I don’t like sweet white wines, I love many of the sweet dessert wines. That sounds weird, but it’s because it isn’t the sort of wine you’d have on its own or with your main, it’s something you’d have with lighter desserts or blue cheese or even as an aperitif with something like pate. The other classic it goes with is foie gras. We had ours with a tarte au citron. However, I take it back, I would very cheerfully drink this on its own. It’s sweet as you’d expect, but actually has a lovely dry finish. My husband, who has a sweeter tooth than me, had to be prised away from it. Absolutely delicious. A case of six half-bottles costs £63.70 with the Grape Club’s Member’s Discount.
If you want to discover some lovely wines, have a bit of an education about what you are drinking, are fed up with supermarkets pushing certain below par labels at inflated prices then The Grape Club is for you. What’s more, quote ‘The Parent Social’ if you’d like to try it out and you’ll get 15% off your first month
I’ll leave you with a quote from my dad, who is an Italian wine and food merchant, but definitely no philosopher. When asked what was the best wine you could have he replied: “The best wine is the one you enjoy drinking the most.” Very true…