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Peter May's view from 'Snorbens'
Episode Two: Wine Society
© Peter May
14 July 2002

Every now and again a wine stops you in its tracks. It happened to me at a Christmas 1997 social dinner. I'm a red wine man. The few whites in my house know they're pretty safe unless I come home bearing a warm bag emblazoned with the name of the local fish'n'chip shop.

So when we sat down to eat I accepted an initial pour of white wine to get my throat into practice for the real (red) wines I could see being uncorked. Conversation flowed until I took a swig of the wine. I couldn't believe the amount of intense flavours I was experiencing. I took a sniff, then another mouthful, which I held, savouring it. This wine had everything; clean gooseberry fruits, fresh grassy notes, green peppers and a zingy refreshing sharpness I revelled in.

I asked the others for their thoughts and conversation slowed then halted as our table swished this wonder wine. It wasn't to everyone's taste, being too 'acidic' for a couple of people but the rest of us wanted to know what we were drinking and where we could buy it.

It will be no surprise to you to learn it was a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. The label said it was 'The Society's Sauvignon Blanc', and the small print showed it had been produced especially for The Wine Society by Selaks in Marlborough.

I gave up my idea of moving to red and stayed with the white throughout the meal.

The International Exhibition Co-operative Wine Society Limited, to give its full name, is the worlds oldest wine society being founded in 1874 as a mutual society to supply wines to its members. Its first wine was some surplus barrels from that years International Exhibition in London. Now almost 100,000 members purchase wine by mail order, via the web or by visiting the Clubs cellars in Stevenage, near London.

Joining the Society requires purchase of 20 share. Members get a full colour newsletter every month with special offers not on the normal list and every three months a new 170 page paperback sized wine list.

So I joined the Wine Society and bought a case of their New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and shared it with others at the table. Then I went back for a case all for me.

Currently the Wine Society lists twelve whites and four reds. The reds start with Red Metal Merlot-Cabernet 1999 (Hawkes Bay) at 11.75, introduce to the list Unison 2000 (Hawkes Bay) 14.50, then Ata Rangi Celebre 1998 (Martinborough) 14.95) with the highest priced being Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir 1999 at 17.95.

The lowest priced white, Dashwood Sauvignon Blanc, is new to the list at 6.95. There are seven Sauvignon Blancs, three Chardonnays, a dry Riesling and a Pinot Gris. The most expensive white is Neudorf Moutere Chardonnay 2000 at 17.75.

And the own label? That was discontinued. The Society says "we have had to de-list our own label Sauvignon Blanc temporarily simply because we could not find a wine worthy of The Society's label in sufficient quantity." They recommend the Dashwood in its place, but I happily settled with the richly gooseberry Wither Hills Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2001.

The Wine Society web-site, for members only, is at

© Peter May
14 July 2002

Any feedback? Send it to Peter.

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