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Wine Society Stars of the East

by Tom Cannavan, 07/12

wine bottles The Wine Society is a mutual society, with each member owning a share in the company and able to buy wines which the Society sells without maximising profit. Though founded in 1874 for the express purpose of supplying the fine wines of classic European regions to its members, in fact the Society is relatively dynamic in its buying, as witnessed by this small selection of wines from some unexpected countries in central Europe and Africa. Membership of the Wine Society costs £40 for life, including a £10 joining credit: thewinesociety.com.

white wines

Hilltop, Cserszegi Fűszeres 2011, Hungary
Cserszegi Fűszeres is a cross between Hungary's Irsai Oliver grape and Gewürztraminer, and there is lots of floral, geranium leaf and leafy green herbs, and a bit of tropical fruit and almost Sauvignon-like green bean punch. The aromatic fireworks are not let down by the palate, where a searing core of juicy, fresh grapefruit flavour and acidity floods through, but there's some texture and hints of fruity sweetness too, in a wine packed with character unlike so many at this price. This was a Wine of the Week on wine-pages, so there are more details and food matching suggestions in my Wine of the Week video review. £5.25, The Wine Society

Ştirbey, Tămâioasă Românească 2010, Romania
In case you didn't know, dry Muscat has become the latest dry white sensation state-side, and a wine like this would find many fans with its floral and fresh melon and grape burst of aromas and pungent personality. The Tămâioasă grape is native to Romania and offers a cologne-like fragrance that might be too much for some, but the palate is lovely with dry, streaking fresh and mountain-stream clarity, and a bit of lemon pith tang and grip. 88/100. £9.50, The Wine Society

Dveri Pax, Šipon Furmint 2010, Slovenia
Dveri Pax is one of Slovenia's biggest producers, and here the great grape of Tokaji is made into a gently floral and sherbetty dry white with apple fruit at its core. On the palate it is crisp and fresh, with lots of lemony juiciness. Lots of fruit flavour, a certain peachiness always tightened by that elusive hint of something mineral into the finish. 88/100. £10.95, The Wine Society

red wines

Ştirbey, Novac Sec 2009, Romania
Plenty of creamy, deep and dense black fruit in this wine from the indigenous Novac grape, with plum and chocolate depths of charry oak and deep-seated fruit. Little hints of pepper and spice too. The palate is fresh, with that tart plum and cherry skin brightness and grip, but has a certain juiciness and core of sweet ripe fruit. Fascinating and delicious stuff. 89/100. £13.95, The Wine Society

Vinkara, Kalecik Karasi 2009, Turkey
Burgundy springs to mind on first sniff of this wine, from its pale colour and gently leafy, autumn berry character, to its lovely fresh black fruit crunch. The oak is nicely handled, adding a touch of cappuccino on the palate, and this has a lovely, long, lingering berry and cream finish that is deliciously bright. A real find and genuinely enjoyable. 88/100. £9.50, The Wine Society

Domaine des Ouled Thaleb, 'Tandem' Benslimane 2009, Morocco
Crozes-Hermitage winemaker Alain Graillot discovered this old Syrah vineyard in 2003 whilst on a cycling holiday in Morocco in the Benslimane area, 50k east of Casablanca and 500 metres above sea level. Half of the wine was matured in oak, but only 10% of it new. It has a charming and inviting nose, with a coffee and tarry touch of darkness over deep red fruit. There's a tiny floral lift too in a quite elegant, 13% alcohol wine. On the palate it is substantial and creamily mouth-filling, with masses of sweet fruit and barely a sign of the oak, the fruit sweet but also with a savoury, quite smoky and meaty quality, running into a well-balanced finish with tight tannins, a touch spice and fresh acidity. 90/100. £11.50, The Wine Society