Anthony Rose: The Wine Society has shown a wine merchant can compete with supermarkets


If there's any truth in the notion that a wine merchant can't compete with the supermarkets on value, the idea has been knocked firmly on the head by The Wine Society.

Regular readers will already know that the once-in-a lifetime membership fee of £40 for access to the non-profit-making Wine Society is the best wine investment since Château Lafite before China discovered it. So it proved at the spring tasting last month when it showcased one of the best under-a-tenner ranges on the market.

The first white to catch my eye was the 2011 Adega de Pegões Colheita Seleccionada, £6.50, a stylish, peachy, four-grape blend from Portugal rounded out by a smidgeon of vanilla oak. At just £6.25, the rose petal-fragrant, dry 2012 Zarcillo Gewürztraminer from Chile's Bío-Bío Valley, had you fearing for its producer's livelihood. Still in Chile, an intensely herb and green-pepper-scented 2012 Litoral Sauvignon Blanc, Leyda Valley, £7.75, was a Chilean answer to Sancerre. Next, a serious mouthful in all senses, Romania's refreshingly fragrant, floral, dry 2012 Prince Stirbey Tamâiosa Româneasca Sec, £9.50.

Three mouthwatering dry rieslings side by side pointed up the virtues of this woefully undervalued variety and how each country has its own distinctive expression of the world's top aromatic grape: Australia's lime-scented, dry 2012 Blind Spot Clare Valley Riesling, £7.50, Chile's intensely-fragrant, bracingly spritz-fresh 2011 Concha y Toro Corte Ignacio Casablanca Riesling, £8.50, and The Society's gentler, more floral and satisfying 2011 Saar Riesling, £8.95, from Kesselstatt in Germany.

Headed up by three delicious and differing styles of rosso from north Italy, the reds showed no sign of flagging value. The 2011 Dogliani Dolcetto, £6.96, was a delightful leap-into-spring red, the 2011 Curto Barbera d'Alba La Foia, £8.50, damson-fragrant, and the Poggio del Sasso Sangiovese di Toscana, £6.95 a quaffing mini-Chianti in all but name. And there's more, a bargain barbecue special in the 2010 Vinha do Reina, Douro, £6.50, and a smoky-peppery Uruguayan 2012 Atlantico Sur, Garzon Vineyard Maldonado Marselan, £7.95.

One error The Wine Society never makes is to mistake price for value. At over £10, its van will not just deliver but over-deliver. The 2011 Maycas del Limarí Pinot Noir Reserva Especial, £11.95, was a marvel of fragrance and smoky, strawberry fruitiness, pipped only by a mulberry-succulent 2011 Marsannay Les Longeroies, Domaine Sylvain Pataille, £21. As for an approachable, great Italian red, Dante himself would have forsaken inferno for the 2008 GB Burlotto Barolo Monvigliero, £28, all spicy, savoury cherry with that tell-tale north Italian grip and twist.