Monday, 18 October 2021

 A very Warm Welcome

Welcome Back to Members

The Freeland Wine Club’s second night back in the village hall after lock down was a very welcome occasion in more than one way. Firstly, it was a welcome back to the members, to the first formal session for almost two years and we made the most of it, with around 45 members turning up; it seemed that however many tables were put out there were never enough!

Secondly, it was welcome to the new committee! After years of stalwart service, Bruce and Chris have stood down as the lynch-pins of the club which now has a more formal structure and a committee. Thank you both, Chris and Bruce, as the founding fathers of the club, your years of service and dedication have been truly admirable and very much appreciated. And let us not forget Marge and Doreen, the unsung behind-the-scenes heroes without whom the club would not have operated as smoothly as it has.

Welcome Back to Toby

It was also welcome back to Toby Chiles - another stalwart of the club. Toby has hosted 5 wine tastings for the club, including one by Zoom. As is obvious from his numerous visits to the club, Toby is one of our favourite hosts. He has worked for Banbury based wholesaler S H Jones since 2007 and has a Diploma from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust in London. He also works for Wine Unearthed a company that runs wine tasting sessions across the country. Toby hosts a comprehensive 5-hour wine experience (with a three-course lunch) for Wine Unearthed on one Saturday each month. Toby did not let us down and his event for the wine club was yet another creative and fascinating evening learning about the delights of wine.

An Evening of Three Parts

The evening was divided into three tasting rounds, each with three different wines. This was a treat; we normally taste between 5 and 6 in an evening. The wines Toby introduced are listed at the end of the blog.

The first wines were all Rieslings and all from the same producer. The aim was to see how versatile grape varieties can be and how they can be used to make different styles of wine. The second collection were all Malbecs from different countries (Chile, France and South Africa). The aim was to see how wines differ when they come from different origins. The third were all Sangiovese from Italy, but with different prices (£6, £14, £37), the price being a proxy for the quality of the wine.

In each round the wines were tasted blind and members encouraged to discuss them. As a result, there was much discussion, debate, banter and laughter, the latter especially as the evening drew on and the wine flowed.

Members were amazed after the first round at how different a varietal wine could be. (I recommend that people experiment with a range of different sauvignon blanc. That is another wine that can be amazingly variable). Most people seemed to think that there was a much smaller difference between the Malbec wines. Malbec does tend to be a consistent grape, with notable differences resulting when wine makers do something creative with it, for example fortifying with brandy or adding coffee. The general conclusion with the Sangiovese was that price is no guide to what you might like in a wine. Indeed, a number of members popped off to Lidl the next day to bought the cheapest of the three. It would be interesting to know if any popped out to buy the most expensive.

Say Cheese

As usual a fine selection of cheeses was provided with the wines. This time we were also treated to charcuterie with some of the wines.

With the Riesling wines:

Le Roulé. A soft French cheese with garlic and herbs.

Reserve Gruyère. From a small Swiss diary that is matured for a minimum of 10 months.

With the Malbec wines

Traditional Air-dried Salami from France

Spicy Spanish Chorizo

Red Leicester (Vintage Red Fox) from Shropshire. Matured for a minimum of 18 months.

With the Sangiovese wines:

Manchego. A full-fat, hard cheese made with sheep's milk matured for a minimum of 9 months, from the La Mancha region of Spain.

Parmigiano Reggiano. A rich, distinctive hard cheese from Italy that is matured for a minimum of 30 months.

And Finally

All in all, the event was yet another most enjoyable evening. Thanks to Toby for being such an excellent host (yet again) and to the members for their thoughtful and enthusiastic involvement.

Finally, the committee would like to thank members for helping to tidy up after the evening, it was very much appreciated.

The Wine List

ROUND 1 – STYLE: German Riesling

Mathy Schanz Riesling Classic (Dry) circa £10

Mathy Schanz Auslese (Medium sweet) circa £10

Mathy Schanz Sekt (Sparkling) circa £12

German Riesling Wines


Chateau Bur Lagardette Cahors, France, M&S £12.99

Emiliana Adobe, Chile,, £8.50

Gabb Family Vineyard Malbec, South Africa, Majestic, £11.99

The Malbec Wines

ROUND 3 PRICE: Italian Savgiovese

Geografico Brunello di Montalcino 2016 £29 - £45

Chianti Classico Villa Cafaggio 2019 Waitrose £10.99 - £13.99

Corte alle Mura Chianti Riserva 2016 Lidl £6

The Savgiovese Wines

Photographs all Copyright Bruce Hamersley 2021

Saturday, 31 July 2021

 At Last!!!!

The Freeland Wine Club,  is able to meet again and we are not talking Zoom here but meet and be with others sharing the love of wine and the enjoyment of each other's company. 

Our last face to face meeting seems an age ago, back in the time that will be called Pre-Pandemic.   January 2020.  As the say, a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, and water was not on our minds last night at the  meeting.  That said water had been a big part of the day, you see we were aiming to  ease into the meetings by having a group picnic, all bring foods, chairs, blankets, for those reading this outside the UK need to know that the Brits generally picnic very close to, well actually, on the ground, normally on a blanket.  You can buy picnic blankets, made just for that purpose. In any event the weather this week has been rain or about to rain, so not good for alfresco food. On Friday it rained most of the morning  and into the afternoon but by late afternoon the skies cleared and the rain stopped.  So all good, we stayed under cover and enjoyed our picnic foods with friends in the Village Hall. After such a while it was very good to be with Wine Club members, chatting about all sorts with the common interest being wine.  Still keeping a distance and very little shaking of hands  or, heaven forbid, kisses. 

No wine tasting as such, but lots of bubbles to taste, Prosecco in good quntitity, An organic Prosecco was the main wine.  Very good too.  

All of the wines came from that famous wine cellar in Oxford, Aldi, sadly the Jura Cremant is currently unavailable but when there is a star buy. 

Not everyone got to taste the red of the night, it was felt that red would not be wanted, how wrong can you be?  The Sangiovese was very popular. the Italian grape making the journey to Chili more than well and producing a fine red wine. (Aldi £6.49)

The Prosecco was  organic, dry and very well received as well.  (Aldi £7.49)

If the photographer failed to photograph you then he is sorry for that but if your picture is here he hopes you approve.

Sunday, 4 October 2020

 English Wines of some quality.

Its so good to be member of a Wine Club with members that will step up and take on tasks that are not easy.  Why would I say this, well the subject in question is English wines. Maybe you will be aware of the fact that the production of English Wine has increased by 75% in six years, that there are now over 500 vineyards in England.  That our, soon to be called English Champagne has won major awards.  All true but also the feeling that these  wines  expensive and not always such great tasting wines which maybe,  do not represent great value.   

So how would anyone like to talk on the subject and throw some well needed light on the matter. Our speaker, our own Wine Club member Terry Glossop was that very man.  He gave a very comprehensive talk and went a long way to put to rest some of the possible unconscious bias of the members, (I for one) hold. 

We we walked through the recent history of wine production in the UK. Let's be honest we are a very long way North to compete with areas of the world which boast 300 days of sunshine, and sunshine is needed to make the sugars to produce the grapes suitable to produce first class wines. But then we now have the possible curse of the 21st century, climate change, the South of`England is now able to produce grapes on a regular basis that do have the sugars and maturity dates needed to produce good wines.  What is emerging is also the ability to have consistent and very good quality effervescent wines. It seems post Brexit we can  call such wines English Champagne.  Little surprise then that Tattinger are making wines, sparkling wines in the UK, other Champagne houses have a record of something similar in other parts of the world so its interesting to see the UK  has now joined that list of options.

So of the wines, on Zoom we were able to talk about the wines we were tasting and what we thought of them - generally we thought them fine, with thought then on the expensive side but also  somewhat surprising, typical comments were, 'Well I'm surprised, yes this is a good wine, a distinctive wine but a fine glass...'.  would people buy again, maybe is the answer, that the price point of the wines are against some stiff competition from many famous and good wines .  That said the one wine that was well received was the Three Chires Wine (Majestic) and also the fizz from our local vineyard at Brightwell, the 'English Champagne'  was said to be quite exceptional.

Terry a big thanks and thanks to all participants, the Wine Club continues and does so because of the collaborative work of all involved.

Terry noted a number of English wines with prices and availabilities.

Three Choirs White -- Offer price £11 from Majestic.
Balfour Chardonnay Ortega 2019-- Price £13 from Marks & Spencer
Woodchester Culver Hill -- Price £13.99 from Eynsham Cellars
Brightwell Pinot Noir -- Price £15.49 from Eynsham Cellars
Blackbook Chardonnay Clayhill Essex 2018 -- Price £19 from 
Simpsons The Roman Road Chardonnay, Kent--Price £27 from

We hope to be able to offer something approaching a social evening at our usual date -in later November, this we will need to circulate when the have further plans confirmed and will be emailing in due course.  


Saturday, 8 August 2020

 An evening like no other

What a night, humidity you could cut with a knife and sadly only a few faces on the Zoom meeting, what a shame as this meeting turned out to be just terrific, and why was that?

Well the format was not the usual, we had three speakers, three members offering what to them were  wines that meant something more than just the wine.  For this we thank our speakers, Marilyn, Bill, and Bob.

Marilyn told of memorable holidays and visits to South Africa, giving memories of tasting a stunning Chardonnay on the vineyard in Stellenbosch, and then the holiday in the South of France,Provence and a luscious Rosé.  Bill tells of a white cote de Rhone, almost as rare as hen's teeth and a good looking Cote de Bourge, with Bob offering us a Spanish Ganash alongside an English white wine.

All the wines are noted below, and are available to buy.  

Bill was telling us of the vineyard B&B that the had stayed in when on holiday in the Bordeaux region and tasted the wine at the vineyard and of the family making the wines.  Marilyn of the trip to Provence, enjoying the wine while looking out over the wonderful Cote d'Azure. and Bob's childhood being spent next to the Woodchester Vineyard near Stroud, shades to Cider with Rosie here!

Sadly your Blogwriter failed in not recording the evening which turned out to be concluded with a quiz, this was wonderfully eccentric with the questions not always being understood or in the correct order. The result was a relaxed and enjoyable quiz the points gained being le ss important than taking part. Something that were always told as a child, it's the taking part that matters, last night this was the case.  To the Quizmasters, husband and wife team, David and Mary, a big thanks you. 

The wines:


  • Maison Castel, Cotes de Provence 2019 Rose.  (On discount at Wairose)

Eynsham Cellars

  • Lanzerac Chardonnay white wine from Stellenbosch.  Winemaker: Wynard Lategan.  Origin: jonkershook Valley.  Winery: Lanzerac Wine Estate,
    South Africa.  
  • Tres Picos, Borsao, Garnacha

  • Woodchester Valley, Culver Hill 

Wine Society

  • Caractere 2017 by Chateau de la Grave from the Cote de Bourg (right bank) bordeux.

Monday, 6 July 2020

The Wine Club goes to The Napa Valley

We all know of it, we know Napa Valley is in California and we have heard of the wines, we know they are said to be some of the best in the world. We know only a little of how much wine is produced,  we know the wines are  expensive and that in '76 they amazed the world in a famous blind tasting which resulted in them being classed as the best wines in the world.

We were taken there with the very excellent guide, our very own David Lloyd   David was hoping to spend time on sabbatical in California and so we joined him on his virtual trip and time there.

The evening was set up well, and was like a game of football, it came in two parts, we kicked off with the wine area, the size, the values, the costs of the wines and the amount produced, the history and the famous blind wine tasting of the mid 70's which shot the Valley into the  stratosphere of quality wines a position that have enjoyed since and still enjoy today.

The members do like a good quiz, so we had two, they were based on what we had just seen and heard, David must have been pleased as the members all did well remembering much of the detail of the presentations.

Here I take the opportunity to say a big thank you to the team that put the evening together, in addition to David a big thanks to Chris and Phill, and to Louise, our quiz masters and tech co-chair.  All just brilliant.

For the second part of the evening David gave told us of his dream trip around California and the Napa Valley, as mentioned David was hoping to spend time this year when he took a sabbatical, sadly that is now not going to happen but his time in planning was not wasted as he was able to take us on that tour, and the tour was terrific.

A you will imagine the winemakers of the Valley know how to show their vineyards to very best, and in the Valley this can be to an amazing degree.

To do this  we climbed aboard the Wine Train and visited a number of vineyards,

We went on to see more all were amazing and fantastic:

Take for example the  Castello di Amorosa. Built at stupendous cost tof $40,000,000 to showcase the wines of the world famous vineyard.

Or the vineyard of the film producer Francis Ford Coppola:

David tells us of the highly exclusive vineyards such as Screaming Eagle, no wine tasting possible and wine can only be bought if you are 'on the list' of those that can buy. Then a limit of how much can be purchased and then the wine could be sold on for a multiple of the amount bought for.   If you are think the Napa Valley is not like anywhere else in the world of wine you would be right. And our thanks for David for lifting the lid on the world for us.


It was very clear from the general feeling of the membership that the Zoom meetings are well received, in some ways offering some advantages over meeting in the Village Hal, that said though it is also clear we will be happy to be back in our usual venue but sadly that still looks like being a way off. On the horizon though we could, perhaps,  have our usual social evening in later November if restrictions are eased a little more.  While that is on hold I think we can say it just may be possible to meet then and remain within the restrictions needed for group meetings.

What we do want to do is to have another Zoom meeting in August, normally we assume too many are away on holiday in August but not so this year.

As soon as we are organised on that front I will be emailing with dates etc.