In praise of a corking club

After meeting the readers at our live event, Christine Austin raises a glass to the Yorkshire Post Wine Club.

Peter and Jean Conwell, Fiendish Quiz winners from 2012 pop in to taste wine at Yorkshire Post Magazine Live

One lovely lady I encountered at Yorkshire Post Magazine Live in Harrogate last weekend told me: “My husband has breakfast with you every Saturday”. I’m afraid that I neglected to ask her name, but to her husband I would like to say, “Good morning, did you sleep well?”

It was a sheer delight to meet so many regular readers of this column at the event. I was able to put faces to many of the names which have appeared on emails asking questions about port, weddings and wine-based holidays, while several Fiendish Quiz winners turned up to say hello and catch up on news since our adventures in various vineyards in France, Spain and Australia.

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My series of tutored tastings in the yurt (an amazing structure – I really want one in my garden) were packed. The McGuigan range of wines showed well with The Shortlist Shiraz 2007 winning most palates to its ripe berry fruit and soft, spiced tannins (£14.99, Majestic). Jadot’s Burgundies were on form with Beaune Premier Cru 2008 (£21.99, Majestic) topping the tasting sheet for its elegance and complexity. On Sunday the yurt was out of action as a small hurricane threatened to blow it over the Pennines but we gathered around the kitchen table on the Clarity Arts stand and tasted a terrific range of sparkling wines and champagne. It was difficult to choose a favourite between Gosset and Pol Roger champagne, but we eventually decided that the deliciously crisp Pol was perfect for a pre-lunch aperitif while the Gosset has the weight and fullness of flavour to take on dinner engagements (both available from Harrogate Fine Wine). A Rioja tasting rounded off the tastings with Contino Reserva from Cune (£22.99, Field and Fawcett, York) winning most accolades.

As well as tutored tastings I was on stage with Stephanie Moon, matching wines to her fabulous food and in between all that I did my best to introduce as many people as possible to the wonderful range of wines in The Yorkshire Post Wine Club.

I have been reluctant to blow my own trumpet about the Wine Club, preferring to let the wines speak for themselves, but it seems that many readers have not realised that we actually have a wine club so it seems like it is time to tell you more about it.

Unlike most newspapers which operate wine clubs, The Yorkshire Post Wine Club has not been farmed out to a multi-national business. I actually do this one myself, working with a Yorkshire-based supplier (House of Townend). Each month I choose the wines, haggle over the price and write the tasting notes. Flavour for money is my overriding consideration and if the wine doesn’t pass muster, it doesn’t go in the case. The only thing I don’t do is answer the phone and pack the cases. The award-winning wine merchant The House of Townend, based just outside Hull, handle all that side of things, but if you have any comments on the wines you can come straight to me.

Although it is described as a club, there is no obligation to buy. If you like the look of a particular selection I have put together then I would be delighted if you try it.

I also want to stress that The Yorkshire Post Wine Club is not in competition with any of our wonderful independent wine shops around the county. However if you normally buy your wine from one of those big, multi-national mail order operations, then why not try a locally home-grown version for a change?

This month’s case was really popular on the stand at Yorkshire Post Magazine Live, in particular the two sparkling wines, both from Italy. Made by the impressive Villa Sandi in the north of Italy, not far from Venice there is a frothy, fruity Prosecco that I rate as good or better than most of the supermarket versions. There is a rosé version, which can’t be called Prosecco so it goes under the name Il Fresco Spumante Rosé Brut. I enjoy drinking this in the garden for its delicate strawberry and citrus fruit and gentle persistent bubbles.

The Argentine Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 Reserve also won over several new friends. Big with ripe cassis and forest fruit flavours, this is a powerful wine that can stand up to a Sunday roast, but sadly last weekend we were too busy even for a sandwich, never mind a Sunday roast!

Monastier Shiraz 2012 from the Languedoc was also popular for its warm blackberry fruit and a touch of spice. Made by one of the top winemakers in the south of France, this wine is perfect with pasta, grilled meats and even the first barbecue of the season.

This is a mixed bag of wine, which should provide enough choice to suit whatever our variable springtime weather can throw at us. Sparkling wine for aperitifs and sunshine sipping. A crisp Sauvignon for matching with salads and fish, a gentle lunchtime rosé to go with shellfish and light dishes and two well-made reds to accompany the serious business of food.

Being a small, local club means that we can be flexible. If you prefer all reds or all white we can adjust what goes into your case, just let us know when you call.

It would be nice to arrange some tastings and maybe a few reader events in Leeds. It might also be good to have a few special offers of small parcels of wine when I come across something that is not available elsewhere.

If you want to send me your email address so I can put you on the list for speedy notification then please do – [email protected] I promise your address will not be passed on beyond the Wine Club. All the details of this month’s Wine Club offer are at the bottom of the page.