Among the most intriguing review samples to arrive at my door recently was from the wine club known as Decanting Club, whose slickly designed pamphlet flopped through my letterbox last week. They specialise in the £10-£15 price range, which is exactly the bracket I target at The Wine Ninjas. Well, not EXACTLY… I go slightly cheaper than them at £8-£15, but let’s not split hairs. The point is, that this is the sweet spot that gives you the best balance of quality and value.
This graphic from their literature illustrates the point nicely. Up to a tenner, most of the costs go on tax and distribution. After £15, it’s generally a case of diminishing returns.
I’m not sure whether anyone has used this particular wine-club model before (if so, I haven’t heard about it), but Decanting Club’s USP is that your weekly specially-selected sample arrives by post in an astronaut-style plastic pouch. This’ll have purists throwing their hands up, but I can assure you it doesn’t affect the taste of the wine (health and safety alert: the corners on those pouches are sharp though).
They promise to choose wines by small-batch producers that are not often found on supermarket shelves, and each sample comes with a postcard featuring a nicely-written background, tasting notes and pairing suggestions. Check out the link to their site at the bottom of this post and browse their collection of wines. It’s an epic list. I’ve tried two so far, and the quality’s impressive…
Refreshing, elegant, with a hint of sea-saltiness, the Cuvée Marie-Christine from Château de l’Aumérade is a typical Provençal rosé. And, as Provence is world renowned for its rosés, I mean this as a compliment. Its description on the website is accompanied by the video for Pretty in Pink by the Psychedelic Furs (featuring the apt lyric “all of her lovers talk of her notes…”). I thought I was the only wine writer who did stuff like that!
But as I’d drunk enough rosé to sink a cruise liner on a recent press trip to Provence, I’ll admit I was more excited by the second pouch: the Swartland Limited Release mourvèdre, from South Africa’s “black land”. It’s a grape you’d normally associate with Côtes du Rhône blends than varietals, but this is a real treat. Succulent blackcurrant, cherry and pepper aromas; smooth yet spicy on the tongue. This is my kind of red.
I gotta say, Decanting Club is a well thought out and immaculately implemented concept. My only gripe is that the samples are quite small. You get 150ml: which is less than a medium pub measure and equal to one fifth of a bottle, so just as you’re being seduced by its charms, it’s left you high and dry. I guess this is the idea… always leave them wanting more. Well, it worked on me. Of course, you can also order by the case, creating your own bespoke mixes, and this is where Decanting Club will surely be aiming to make most of its profits.
There’s also an app, where customers can share reviews of the wines they’ve tasted, Vivino-style. I’ve not tried this yet, so can’t comment on whether the community has taken off. I have watched some of the videos, by resident expert Steve, that accompany each wine though. He’s sure got some moves, as he swirls himself theatrically around the screen. Most useful. And very entertaining.
The standard monthly membership costs £25 (other options are available), for one pouch per week. That works out just under £6 a glass. It’s a brilliant way for adventurous drinkers to sample lots of different varieties, but will punters be prepared to pay half the cost of a bottle for a fifth of a bottle of wine? New members currently get the first week’s sample free, and it looks to be easy to cancel at any time, so my advice is… you don’t have much to lose.
Find out more at www.decanting.club