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Put a cork in it.

Byline: Andrew Campbell

FORMED in 1874 by a group of enthusiasts at London's Royal Albert Hall, the Wine Society is the world's oldest wine club.

It now lists more than 700 wines and spirits available to its 110,000 members, who pay pounds 40 to join the club for life.

Wines are priced from around pounds 4 to pounds 400 a bottle with the selection ranging from world renowned award-winning producers to 'brewed the obscure'.

The Society's latest tasting in Liverpool's Metropolitan Cathedral Crypt concentrated on introducing more unusual wines in a direct comparison to better known varieties.

The 'If you like that, try this...' tasting, at pounds 24-a-head threw up a couple of unexpected treats.

A show of hands at the end of the evening voted Bobbie Burns Durif 2008, made by the acclaimed Campbells winery (well, it was always going to be good), in the Rutherglen area, of Victoria, Australia.

Named in 1880 after a Montpellier university botanist who first discovered the variety, it is also known as petite syrah. I'd never tasted the grape before but the Bobbie Burns is a belter. Selling at pounds 12.50 a bottle, it was up against the Society's own-label Mendoza Malbec which it booted all the way back to Argentina in terms of quality and enjoyment.

The durif is sweet scented with plum and cherry. A whopping 14.5% alcohol, it treats the drinker to concentrated flavours of plum, blackberry and aniseed beautifully rounded by aging in oak barrels.

Other notable reds at the tasting included the extremely peppery and brambly Vina Leyda Classic Reserve Syrah, 2010, from Chile (at a bargain pounds 6.50), the substantial Chamonix Greywacke Pinotage 2008 from Franschoek, South Africa (pounds 10.95) and the strawberry-scented Etna Rosso Fondo Filara, Nicosia, 2009 from Sicily (pounds 10.95).

My favourite white was the Gewurztraminer Tradition 2010 made by quality Alsace co-operative Cave de Turckheim. At pounds 8.50 a bottle this wine is loaded with lychee flavour plus a little apricot and represents a bargain given its high quality. Its 'alternative' was Hilltop Estates, Nagypap Hegy Single Vineyard Harslevelu (one of the evening's several unpronounceable grapes) 2009 from Hungary (costing pounds 7.50). It was good with a honey, spice, apple and watermelon nose and pear and spice flavours.

The Society's unusual wine portfolio has been increased recently and includes some excellent bottles from Turkey, Slovenia and Lebanon.

At pounds 7.95 a bottle Lebanon's Chateau Ksara Reserve du Couvent, 2009 is a real bargain for fine wine lovers. A blend of syrah, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc it has an excellent strawberry and raspberry nose with a smooth, complex and long-lasting taste of pepper, wood, tar and berries.

Vinkara's Kelecik Karasi 2009 from Ankara, Turkey, only arrived in the UK late last month. It's an interesting mix of aniseed, liquorice, cherry and even a touch of banana. Its chocolaty smooth taste is unusual yet beautifully balanced and is well worth a try at pounds 8.50.

Finally, the Benedictine's of Admont Monastery in Slovenia have been busy fermenting an interesting white furmint - a grape better known for producing Hungary's famous sweet Tokay wines. The Decanter silver medal winning Dveri Pax Sipon Furmint 2010 (pounds 9.95) is bone dry and strong tasting with flavours of peach and a nose of peach, grapefruit, banana and melon. ? Wine Society membership is open to all. To join the multi-award winning club visit the thewinesociety.com.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 16, 2012
Words:577
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