Sunday, 9 June 2019

Wine Secrets and Grape Moments

Being a member of a Wine Club will mean a thirst, not just for wine but also  a thirst for knowlage and information on the world of wine.  For the presentation given at our last meeting this was provided in spades. Not just information but information that's presented with a skill and panache.  Fo this we need to thank David Lloyd, a speaker who very clearly  researches thoroughly and is able to present complex and though provoking information in a way that allows us all to enjoy and appreciate.    Lat Friday we heard not just of wine but some too the philosophical aspects of wine making and enjoying. 

Many thanks David.

David began with a look at Food and Wine’s top ten most unusual wines, of which David promised attendees would try one of them.
These included everything from snake bile wine and lizard wine to birch sap and rose petal wine. Even seagull wine and pumpkin wine were on the list, but in the end we tasted Retsina, pine resin originally used by the Greeks to seal their wine vessels – the pine then infusing the wine.

Wine 1: Kourtaki Retsina dry white from Greece, a well-established brand since 1895. Grape variety: Savatiano, 11.5%. £5.75 From Sainsbury’s.

As for the seagull wine (not tried!), David read Suzanne Donahue’s tasting notes: “If you opened up a Toyota’s carburetor and drank the leftover fluid from inside, that would be pretty close. It goes down hard and settles in even worse. But I must say it sure gets people inebriated in a hurry. And the next day’s hangover is nothing short of spectacular. You’ll feel like you’ve been repeatedly beaten over the head by a giant…well, seagull.”

The second wine was called Fruit Orchestra, a blend of Chenin Blanc and Viognier, from the Western Cape of South Africa. Available from the Coop at £6.

This wine was selected following the story of the fascinating research by Adrian North from Heriot Watt University whose research showed that the type of music that plays in a room can actually alter the taste of a wine to a considerable extent. So the next time you visit a restaurant and order a drink, pay close attention to the background music - it might totally change whatever is in your glass.

The research is interesting and something of a taster for other research information that told more of influences on the tasting of wines. this wine was well received and good wine and from our local coop as well. 

We looked at philosophy and wine, with recommendations to read ‘The philosophy of wine:  A case for truth, beauty and intoxication, by Cain Todd; ‘I Drink Therefore I Am: A Philosopher's Guide to Wine’ by Roger Scrutton and ‘Questions of Taste – The Philosophy of Wine’ by Barry Smith.

This session and session four looked at whether the judgements of 'experts' have any objective validity? Is a great wine a work of art? Can a wine be feminine, profound and cheeky? Questions like these will have been entertained by anyone who has ever puzzled over the tasting notes of a wine writer, or been baffled by the response of a sommelier to an innocent question. 

These sessions also looked at the mischievous research of Frederic Brochet, of the University of Bordeaux, he conducted two separate and very mischievous experiments. In the first test, Brochet invited 57 wine experts and asked them to give their impressions of what looked like two glasses of red and white wine. The wines were actually the same white wine, one of which had been tinted red with food colouring. But that didn’t stop the experts from describing the “red” wine in language typically used to describe red wines. One expert praised its “jamminess,” while another enjoyed its “crushed red fruit.” Not a single one noticed it was actually a white wine. 

In recognition of this, we tasted a white Pinot Noir, mixed with pinot Grigio, from Italy, available from the Oxford Wine Company at almost £14 a bottle.

For many the best wine of the evening, not confusion on costs here, the price would seem to be well represented in the wine, a very enjoyable white wine made with a grape  normally associated with quality reds.

The second test Brochet conducted was even more damning. He took a middling Bordeaux and served it in two different bottles. One bottle was a fancy grand-cru. The other bottle was an ordinary vin du table.  Despite the fact that they were actually being served the exact same wine, the experts gave the differently labelled bottles nearly opposite ratings. The grand cru was “agreeable, woody, complex, balanced and rounded,” while the vin du table was “weak, short, light, flat and faulty”.
Forty experts said the wine with the fancy label was worth drinking, while only 12 said the cheap wine was. 
David then looked at a study by Antonia Mantonakis, a wine researcher from Ontario’s Brock University. This showed that people who know more about wine were more likely to report that difficult-to-pronounce wines were worth more money. 

As a result, we tasted a £14 Bordeaux with a very long name – a Chateau Les Tourelles Du Barrail, 13%, available from Eynsham Wine Cellars, at almost £14.  this was a very enjoyable Bordeaux, having heard David's talk I hesitate to say this but yes a great example.

We also looked at wine and health with some encouraging findings that a glass of red really is good for the over forties.
In celebration of this, we tasted Apothic Inferno – an apothecary being a medieval pharmacy. It is a Californian wine, aged in whisky barrels for 60 days, thus weighing in at 16%. Available from Sainsbury’s at £13.50 a bottle.

We finally looked at wine and culture, looking at the book by Mark Forsyth ‘A short history of drunkenness. Many remarkable facts over the centuries on how alcohol impacts people as a society.
Since the Greeks believed ‘If you can drink a lot and still behave, then you are an ideal man with great virtue of self control,’ we finished on another Greek wine, a sweet one served with chocolate brownies. This Mavrodaphne of Patras Cameo is aged in oak barrels and is 15%. Shop around – prices seem to vary, as does availability.

The conclusion came in two quotes
  • Louis Pasteur defined the 1st principles of modern winemaking when he says: "A bottle of wine contains more philosophy than all the books in the world" 
  • “The simplest definition of a great bottle of wine is when you feel sad because the bottle is empty.” 
Our last wine was  in the Grape Surprises section, after a white Pinot Noir the a sweet red served with brownies. A good end to a good selection of wines and very good talk.

Many thanks David


I was about to post the blog and the door is knocked and my neighbour is standing on the doorstep clutching the attached:

Yes the Chinese snake wine, in person as it were!

Many thanks Dennis.

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Very impressive wine....Brazil

Wine, usually made in countries that do not straddle the equator, countries that don't boast the worlds largest rainforests or the worlds longest and most famous river but that just goes to show that assumptions are best avoided when it comes wines and wine quality.

The March Wine Club meeting had the very great pleasure and enjoyment in being able to be taken on a journey to Brazil to enjoy wines from that vast country.   Most of us were unaware of the scope and range of the wines produced in Brazil. Unaware that Brazil produces more wine than New Zealand.

How do we know this?  By dint of the fact that we were able to enjoy a very impressive and thoughtful presentation by the commercial director of the leading importer of Brazilian wines to the UK, Nicholas Corfe.  His company  Go Brazil, have a long experience of importing wines from Brazil. On this night we ere able to enjoy a very impressive selection of that countries production.

Many thanks Nicholas both for a very good and well researched presentation but also for the impressive selection of wines.

What were those wines?

We enjoyed 6 wines, three reds and three whites, two of which were made using the 'method traditionelle'

Trad. Method sparkler, 30 months on lees, 50% Chardonnay-50% Pinot Noir blend. Mid-straw yellow in colour with gold hints. Small persistent bubbles. Very fresh on nose with strong autolytic character – brioche, toast and nutty aromas all showing. Apple and peach prominent on palate, also some lemon or citric notes. Well rounded, highish acidity and dry ( 6gm res. sugar/ltr.).Very long finish, ends with a tiny sherbet spritz. Drink well chilled as an aperitif; makes an impressive party or formal occasion wine.                                    

High quality: awarded 94 points by Decanter magazine ( October 2018 ).

Produced by the Don Guerino winery from grape of Central European origin, also known as ‘Welschriesling’. Ripe tropical fruit notes on nose, some floral hints. Spends 4 months on lees prior to bottling. Palate is light to medium-bodied with restrained pineapple, melon and peach flavours. Dry, but without the minerality and high acidity associated with German Rhein Riesling. Soft stonefruit and pineapple show on a longish finish. Drink chilled as an aperitif or serve as an accompaniment to hors d’oeuvres, seafood and fish.

From same winery as the ‘Sinais’ above, this is a 100% Malbec, aged in both American and French oak for approx. 6 months, then rests another 6 months in bottle prior to release. Vibrant and youthful fruit on nose with strong varietal violet and mulberry notes, also hint of tobacco. Ripe blackcurrant and plum follows on a super smooth palate, which shows lovely caramel flavours and well integrated oak. Medium bodied, dry, with decent acidity; some ageing potential. Highly versatile: serve with roast chicken, medium flavoured cheeses or pasta dishes.

Produced in the Serra Gaúcha region by the Pizzato winery, which is highly regarded for its red wines, this is a 100% varietal Tannat,  made to be drunk relatively young. Wine is a deep purple-red, with concentration of dark perfumed fruit on nose. More black berry fruit on palate, while other notes of spice, coffee or leather may be discernible too. Soft, well integrated tannins         ( wine is aged for approx. 7 months in 2nd/3rd use French oak ) with good, balanced acidity. Already very approachable and drinking well - but will mature further. Recommended with lamb, cassoulet, stews, charcuterie and curries..

Seldom seen grape variety of northeast Italian origin, this is a 100% example from 17 yr. old vines. Aged in French and American oak for approx. 6 months, then a further 6 months in bottle before release. Attractive, very deep inky purple in colour. Concentration of youthful dark fruits on nose, overlaid with lighter raspberry or redcurrant notes. More ripe fruity aromas on medium palate, which shows a moreish black cherry and licorice core, with hints of smokiness and vanilla off well integrated oak. Tannins still in evidence but overall wine is smooth, with fairly high acidity and touch of sour cherry on a long finish. Recommended with roast lamb or pork.

Originating in Santa Catarina, Brazil’s coldest state this is a sweet sparkler - with 74gm/ltr. of residual sugar - but light and fruity nonetheless,  and without a cloying texture. Made using the ‘Asti’ method, the wine is a very pale yellow with lovely orange blossom and citrus aromas. The mousse is gentle and perlage shows plenty of small bubbles. Highish, cleansing acidity means it is not overly sweet on palate, and freshness is accentuated further when wine is served chilled.  Try with meringues, fruit salad or dark chocolate puds, or as a simple digestif on its own.

Nicholas has sent me the order forms on line should members wish to order, if you do I suggest you use my address for the delivery point. Drop me an email too confirm.

I can hear you saying well the tasting notes are very good but what was the general opinion of the wines and which sparkled?

I would say the reds were all well received, a great depth of flavour with a long  finish, None of the massive tannin sometimes experienced with the grape varieties that made up the reds, in fact, while that could not be called soft they could perhaps be called firm and bright.

The first fizz was a surprise, almost effervescent in the mouth but calming to a gentle and dry finish, the last fizz, a sweetie, going well with chocolate or a pudding at home perhaps.

The Riesling, always wine to evoke the best and worst in the taste buds was not universally liked, but a neutral Riesling that would be good with neutral foods, fish for example, or maybe as an aperitif.

Since the meeting Nic has asked me point out that he will be at the Cheltenahm Wine Festival next weekend and also at the Oxford Wine Festival on 6/7 September.

Here are the prices and order form, if you have any problems printing let me know and I will send over.


The date of the next meeting is June 7th.   Our speaker will be David lloyd

Sunday, 27 January 2019

The Rhone and Rhone wines

Beautiful wines and beautifully told, The Rhone Valley.

France, and the Rhone, for so many Francophiles, and Wine Club members, the area holds some of the most enjoyable wines.  Over the years we have enjoyed many French wines, Burgundian Wines, the Clarets and now that wonderful area of France that follows the Rhone from  the South of Burgundy, The Rhone Valley.

Such a joy to have a tour and to be guided by our speaker, Toby Chiles.  Toby spent a number of years working in Lyon in the wine industry.  It's as very clear that his knowledge of the beautiful wines of the Rhone Valley was extensive.

In addition to good wine we also had some very good cheeses matched to the wines, I will give more information about the cheeses later in this blog

First a big thanks to Toby, a great job again.....

And what of the wines?

First the amount, we had 10 tastings, the first of which we enjoyed as the 'welcome wine' as we arrived. This was a sparkling wine, from the tiny AOC, officially known as St Peray Mousseux AOC.   Truth be told not a wine known outside of France and the only sparkling wine made in the Rhone Vally area of production.

The Rhone valley area under wine production  is huge,  the biggest single market the UK, we love these wines. It seems that a bottle of Rhone wine is opened every 19 seconds. a lot of wine!

After the great start we move on to Organic white Cote du Rhone  and a Voignier

Both wines were very easy on the pallet with good levels of fruit from the Voignier particularly, what was very good was the chance to  to taste both wines side by side, the comparison was a good call, this coupled with tow soft cheeses added to the wines lasting impression

Then the reds:

A mini flight of three Cote du Rhone.  And a trick up the sleeve of Toby, all the same grapes, all the same blend but what, one from Aldi and a very low price, then one from,  wait for it, Australia, and then a true Cote du Rhone blend from the Rhone valley.  The classic blend being Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, commonly refers to as GSM (See Tempus two below - Australia)

What do people think, well the Aldi came in a clear third, then the French and Oz wines were just about neck and neck in terms of appeal. As Toby said when you are not sure what you have it's clear that the results of a tasting are not predicable.

Now the big guns, the most expensive wines are from the Croze-Hermitage AOC, so we enjoyed that wine as well a Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and a Vacqueyras, all very good  but how much better they all would be enjoyed with friends and good food.

The concluding wine, a wonderful sticky, a Muscat de Beams De Venise. This available from Waitrose.

Toby chose the wines with his usual expertise, getting supplies from a number of sources, and details fo the wines and prices are attached.

The Cheeses.

At most Wine Club meets we enjoy cheese but normally bought from Waitrose, they have a great selection of cheeses and we bought from them this time as well, but also ventured into the Aldi and Lidl to test some their specialty cheeses. All cheeses were very good indeed. in fact, many comments on the cheeses and their quality.

So they were:

Vintage Red Liecster
Goat Log
Triple Cream
Low Fat Seeded

Vintage Gauda

Vintage Cheddar.

The members ;

Toby officiates one of two quizzes, this won by John Onslow.


The prospect of the second Wine Club tour to France, we hope to run a trip tho the Loire region in France, this will be in the summer, dates to be confirmed but if you are interested call me or send me an email via the Blog, see below,

Next meeting is  March 29.
The wines fo Brazil

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Call this a Blog?

More a collection of pictures.

Here we go again, another year behind us and another knees up of the Wine Club.

Rather than the usual run down of what we have tasted more a collection of snaps of a few of the members enjoying themselves.

But maybe just a word about the wines.

We had four wines, three good ones it might be added. But the forth, well to be kind this was not a great wine.  For readers outside of the UK this needs to interpreted, what that means is that the wine was terrible.

First the goodies, members will be aware of the trip made by members to visit the Champagne region in the Summer, photographs were shown and the  Champagne was enjoyed.  All the comments were positive, but this was no surprise, lovely wines that we can drive to in a day.

Talk was made of the possible visit in the coming year to the vineyards of the Loire, more info on this to follow.

The foods were great, it is a surprise, not that the food is good but that we have such a mix.  No lists are compiled of what is needed. and yet we have great and mixed selection of good food to have with our good wines.  Many thanks to all involved in its making.

For the rest of the meal we had a choice of a Chilean red produced in massive quantity and sold everywhere often with big discounts.  Yes its the old favourite, Casillero del Diablo. Seldom disappoints and always highly recommend.  But did you know that the company produce over 22,000,000 bottle each years. Amazing.

 The white was a French Viognier, a real cracker:

 Can I hear asking though, what of the dog? Yes we had a poor wine, but what was it? Well it was a surprise as this was from he same store that supplied the French Viogner, yes Waitrose, their Chilean, box of white wine was thought to be very poor indeed.

 'nuff said!

As one of the highlight of the social calendar in the village it seems only right to add few shots of us all enjoying ourselves:

Our, joint, MC for the night, great job done!

and the foods eaten, what sort of a photograph is that!

Have a great Christmas and see you next year.

Bruce H