The Society’s Exhibition Chianti Classico 2013

The Society’s Exhibition Chianti Classico 2013, 14%, Italy

(£11.50, The Wine Society)

We know all too well from our ongoing Saturday Kitchen wine hunts how tough it is finding great value wine at around the £10 mark. Our value antennae are constantly finely calibrated as a result.

So it was instructive to try a modest line-up of own-label wines from The Wine Society, which we reckon is one of this country’s best wine retailers.

Not all were successful. We found the Exhibition Napa Cabernet 2014 to be just a bit innocuous, sweet-fruited and bland, especially for the price (£18). Similarly, the Mendoza Malbec 2010, while displaying some enticing mature aromas, was too hot, spicy and hollow. Neither worked with food – the real acid test of a good wine.

In middling territory was the Exhibition Pouilly-Fuissé 2014, at £18 it wasn’t cheap or particularly good value, but it did have decent weight and typicality, with rich mealy texture and good appley fruit freshness. A fleshy style for classicists.

But there were three stand-out wines. The Exhibition Limarí Chardonnay 2015 (Concha y Toro) packed in a tremendous amount of wine for the price (£9.95), brimming with toasty melon fruit flavours, nutty complexity and a vivid, tangy acidity underscoring it all. You struggle to find a decent oaked wine at under £10 but to pack in this level of upbeat, effusive complexity is outstanding.

Then there was the Exhibition Rioja Reserva 2009 (La Rioja Alta, £13.95): utterly classic, engaging, old school writ large and delightful for it. Like settling into your favourite leather armchair in front of an autumn fire.

Finally, the Chianti Classico 2013 (Poggiopiano). This typifies the excellent job that the Wine Society’s buyers do. On the one hand, it’s exactly what you’d expect from Chianti Classico, with elegant flavours of juicy cherries and hint of leather, tea leaf and dried flowers. On the other, it’s supremely drinkable and great value, with none of the rough edges or rawness of some other Chiantis at this price. Delightful with all kinds of food from veal ragu to sausage & chilli pasta and beef salad with butternut squash.

(Susie, 7/10, March 2017)