Monday, 1 December 2014

Red, White and Fizz Friday

At the last meeting of the year for the Wine Club, the aim is not so much to taste wines, although that has to be a part of the evening, but more the chance to meet and enjoy each others company and yes, enjoy some good wine and food as well.

This year we enjoyed very good wines but more than that some very good food indeed.  This is the night when we have what I think the Americans call, a pot luck super.

Nothing Pot Luck about the great foods on this night though. A wide variety of 'finger food', that this year can only be described as sensational.

So this Blogger wants to say to all of those that brought such great food, THANK YOU, it was very good.  Also a very big thank you to all of those that helped set up before hand and helped clear away at the end of the night. A thanks also to Chris Onslow, the games master for the night.

This year also saw us try some very good wines.

A start with a  Prosecco to warm and welcome.

This wine, along with the others enjoyed came from France, came from the not so famous wine growing area, more a wine selling area - Calais.  Myself along with three others ventured across the channel to buy an assortment of wine for the Club and what better start with than the most popular of Italian wine, Prosecco.  Incidentally a day we would like arrange again but for as many members of the Club that may like to join us, more detail below.

To accompany the foods some quite special white wine.  A Condrieu from the vinyard of Pierre Blanche.  This was suggested to us as a wine coming from the same area of the very famous and sought after (red) Cote Rotie.  Here we have a white wine and only available in very small quantities if at all in the UK.

The complete appellation is a very small 100 hectares.

So a treat to try this wine and how was it received?   For some the wine was given that somewhat disparaging description of interesting, well  that was true. The taste not like other wines tasted but the depth of flavour and the length both more than good.

The other wine of the evening was a fine Claret, the incomparable Chateau Haut-Marbuzet. (2006) - and my what a wine.

Very impressive at all levels and for most the star of the two wines on offer.

Both bought at a small but very good wine merchant in the town of Calais rather then in the huge wine warehouses in the town.

Other wines came from Bag in Box wine and that was fine but a little unfair on them, after tasting such exceptional wines then to move cheap and cheerful was a test that they were hardly up to.

The evening though had other surprises and pleasures in store, more then wines, more than great foods, yes of course the other pleasures were the games.

The rules were simple, from the bag of Scrabble tiles how many and what is the highest score you can make only using words associated with wine.

Now this generated some great debate, concentration, enjoyment and good results.  I think the word which won was Gerwurztraminer,  no mean feat.

Then on to find your buddy. All the people present had names tags and numbers on the same, so to find your buddy, with the same number, gave the chance of a prize.  All entered into well and lots of prizes won.


The programme for the coming year is shaping up very well, the aim is to have four speakers from our own ranks, with the following being in the frame:

Wines of the US
Wines of Provence
German Wines
and to start us at the January meeting, Wines of South Africa.

We hope to also have one professional from the wine industry, possibly a sommelier, this yet to confirmed.

The November meeting we hope to be on the same lines as this year.

The dates for the coming year are below.

In addition we hope to run a trip to France, just for the day to get lunch, maybe some wines and some time in the  seaside towns near Calais.  Again dates etc. to be confirmed but the likely cost thought to be in the region £60.00 per head plus lunch.

Dates for the diary:

January 30th
March 27th
May 29th
July 31st
September 25th
November 27th

All the last Friday in each respective month.

Have a great Christmas and a fine New Year and we look forward to seeing you all on January 30th, if in the meantime you want more information about Club activities don't hesitate to email me.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Just in time Wine Club

Spain, Wine, Tapas, White Villages

Last night was a great night for the Wine Club.

Great because we were treated to a trip to Spain by Bob and Wendy who were themselves just back from the country.  In fact, when I say just back I mean just that.  After buying the wines, and lots of it as well as the Tapas, again lots of it, Bob and Wendy rocked up to the Village Hall at some time after seven. This is after driving the length of Spain and then up from Portsmouth. All one can say is 'good for them'.

In fact that was not a problem although it has to be said it did cause just a smidgen of concern from the organisers.   Not least of all as we expecting a big turnout of over 50 people.

As members will know, the majority of presentations are made by the members who step up and volunteer to talk about wines that the know and generally love.   This was the case last night, but more so.

Bob and Wendy did  a great job sharing with us the wines, of this more in a mo, but also the foods, the history and the culture of 'their' part of Andalusia.

The area of Spain which produces the wines we tasted is in the deep South of the country and is almost unique in being at a high altitude, in fact the town itself is at the height of Scafell Pike, the tallest English mountain. The vineyards rising up to 2,000 meters in height.  It is home to the most southerly ski slopes in Europe.

Over the evening we tasted just one white wine, a very drinkable one too, wonderfully named Romance. A rounded and easy drinking wine, and, like its siblings tasted at the meeting, a wine that had (just) travelled and travelled well. 

On through tastings to a variety of red, Syrah, Tempranillo, and a very fine Cabernet Sauvignon/Tempranillo blend.  The meeting concluded with a sweetish rosé.

All of the wines were accompanied by some great cheeses, and chritzo, to make some fine tapas to have alongside our wines. For this we must thank Wendy, Marj and Mary, all clearly Tapas experts.

The raffle, with once again a startling good prize, in this case two of Spain's finest Rioja, was won by John and Renata.

Wendy told the meeting of a flat that is available to rent next the house they own in the area. 

The link to the website which gives more info on the accommodation and area is here, , Wendy's email is


The date of the next meeting, and please do put this in the diary, is FRIDAY NOVEMBER 28TH.
This is the mainly social evening but with good food by courtesy of a 'pot luck' supper.

We ask those coming to bring a plate of finger food of their own choice.  In the past we have always had the most gorgeous foods.  This will be accompanied by a selection of fine wines.   

Bruce Hammersley

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The Blue Nun rides again

German Wines, yes please!

The July meeting of the Wine Club can be one with a low attendance, the summer is here and the holiday season is quite definitely with us, so what a good surprise to have such a strong turnout of the meeting on July 25th.

The meeting was all about German wines. And for those of a certain age that gave a chance to re-visit to the land of Blue Nun and Black Tower.  As it turned out both the names featured heavily during the evening but solely as a reminder of how things  were and not how they are.

For this meeting we needed a good and knowledgeable speaker, the Club heard of the difficulty of finding someone who is familiar with the wines of Germany.  Chris Onslow stepped up to the take the task on,  and take it on with gusto he did.

A massive thanks to Chris who took time out while in France to buy wines and cheese for the evening.   In addition he was able to give a very full resume of the the German wine industry both historically and current.

The wines of the night were dominated by the white wines that Germany is so famous for.  We tasted five whites and two reds.

We started with a glass of Hock. Now most of us would have thought that Hock was a type of German wine, which it is but it is just that, a type of wine,  not a type or variety of grape, it means a German wine, normally made by bringing differing wines together and blending, and the blend is,  yes you have it, a Hock.  Perfectly good to drink and also with the  advantage of being a low cost wine, ours came from the Co-op at under £4.00 Per bottle.

Then a white wine and what was for most of us a second German grape variety we have about heard of - the Sylvana grape.

This picked up by Chris in France (Lidl) at  under 3 euros

Then on to the  more less known of German wines but with a real step up in quality, the first of these was the Wolf Wines, Pinot Gris.  Very nice too as they say.  Light, fresh, subtle and well received.

This and the following wines, other than the 'sticky', from the Oxford Wine Company.

Following this onto the first of two Rieslings, this the grape which one normally associates with Germany.  Chris was telling us that the Riesling can come in may different  forms and types, from sweet to dry  but always with that distinctive and recognisable Riesling taste.

Now the Reds.  

Now it has to be said that Germany is not noted for its red wines, well at least as far as the British  buyer.  In fact many vineyards produce reds and some of these are very good indeed. 

The last of the Reds was certainly this, but the other red, well a good wine for comparison, but not on too many 'must buy' lists. 

This a Pinot Noir and it it really didn't do it to for the majority of those tasting.

The second, it seems imported for an Oxford college function, was a blend of local grapes combined with Merlot.  A fine wine and if Dear Reader you don’t mind me sharing with you, bought well. It was just about at its peak of time in storage and would start to fall off in quality so was sold to us as a bin end on a healthy discount at just £18.00 per bottle.

After the very good red the last wire of the evening; a Blue Nun wine but not as you may remember it this was a ‘sticky'; a desert wine as we sometimes call the very sweet and luscious wines taken at the end of the meal or with Foire Gras.  This also a Riesling Grape wine.

This was one of the famous Ice Wines. Very difficult to make and always made in minuscule amounts. By its nature,  high up on the Richter scale of cost.  Well thanks to Chris, this bought in France at a quarter of the UK price.

Dear Reader I am sorry to go on about the prices of the wines but the German wines are interesting in this respect. As they are little known in the UK the market for the Ice Wine, the Pinot Gris and even some of the Rieslings is small and and so the usual  advantage of scale affecting prices does not apply in the same way. Hence the inherent price anomaly.

The cheeses for the evening were all intersting some available from the  Oxford Cheese company and some from your local Waitrose or Sainsbury.  

Monday, 2 June 2014

If it's Friday it must be The Loire

After much discussion, thought and planning, four intrepid travellers from the Wine Club set off to find, taste, buy and share with members, wines from The Loire.  The wines to be enjoyed by members at the May meeting

To be just a tad pedantic about it, it wasn't just Loire Wines, it was the wines from the Eastern end of the river, the area from Saumur to Nantes.  But lets have a map....

So it was that the Wine Club meeting of May was all about the trip to buy and taste these great wines.

Slides were shown, the explanations given and the wines tasted.   What of these wines? Well most members will be aware that this area is considered by some to be the best area of France for wine, a massive amount is produced by hundreds of excellent vineyards.  The variety of grape is wide and  the wine types is also wide.  They are noted as being easy on the pallet and easy, at least to some extent, on the pocket.

Most will know of the Puilly Fume, the Sancerre, the Vouvray wines, well known and loved by the British for a very long time.  Not many, ourselves included, know of the wines from the Eastern area though, and it was these wines we wanted to try and return with.

Our quest started in Saumur, a beautiful city striding the wide Loire, inevitably with its own large an dominating chateau.

 Saumur saw us have our first tasting at the Vineyard, St Vincent.  I should add that all the vineyards were award winning with the wines being selected as being some of the best and recognised as such, not by us but by the authors of the Guide Hachette, a sort of bible for wine buyers in France

Wine buyer at work, St Vincent, Saumur  (This will take you to the short video shot at the vineyard)

Here we were able to taste and try some super Red wine and also some Crement, a wine made in the way that champagne is made.  A wine to bring home and also one we could try at the Club.
Here they both are:

On and further west from The St Vincent vineyard took us to the wines of Domaine St Mihoudy, another vineyard, another selection of very good wines.  

All we tasted were good and very different.  The Red a complex, Bordeaux style wine with 15% alcohol levels normally seen in wines from the South of France with its great sunshine hours.  The grapes for this wine were from old vines and are picked by hand with a further selection to be sure that only the every best of grapes were allowed in the wine.  But better than me explaining, listen and look at the maker of the wine giving his explanations.

Domaine St Mihoudy  (Video link)

The wines:  

The third vineyard was now well over to the West, a vineyard with a very good range of wines and an almost casual regard for the cups, competitions and awards gained by the wines.  We were given a superb tasting by the owner of the Vineyard.  We came away with a great and soft red of the club and some lovely Crement for our own use.   This vineyard, the Petit Clocher. 


Finally on the to the last but very interesting tasting.  This time by the Father and Son team at the Domaine des Pouiniers.  This time almost in sight of the Ocean. 

The wines were mainly made from the Muscadet grape.  Very good to taste but also refreshing, famous for matching with fish but also with light meats. A  great aperitif.    What was also refreshing was the price, we had heard that as you move West the prices come back but we did not expect to pay just over 3 Euros  c£2.60 for a really good bottle of award wining wine. 
The wines: 

...and the video

What was a very great pleasure was to be able to share such good wines and also to be able to give members present a bottle each of the Red wine of The St Vincent vineyard as well and Gros Plant wine from our last visit. 

Dates for the Diary

July 25th             German Wines
September 26th   Spanish Wines
November 28th   Dinner on a plate 

Sunday, 30 March 2014

A Majestic Tasting

March 28th 2014

For the tasting this month the club was fortunate in being able to draw on the expertise and experience of the staff of our local Majestic Wine Warehouse in Witney.

So before a resumé of the wines and of the evening a very big thank you is due to Mike and Claire, the manger and assistant manger at the branch.

When discussing the options to taste wines from Majestic it soon becomes apparent that the choice available is very wide indeed. This choice was to our advantage when the suggestion from Mike was to take two of the the most popular and most widely grown grapes and have some comparisons.

So with this in mind a mid range, £10.00 Chardonnay was to be compared with another Chardonay at three times the cost and both New World wines.

This was to be followed by two  Cabernet Sauvignon wines, a mid range again but now with a 'fine wine'. 23.00 bottle for comparison. Again New World wines

So did this pan out?  Of course it and did very well.

But first introduction to our speakers,


and Claire

The first wine was the mystery wine, and guessed by the Spanish wine loving member Adrian a wine with special links to Majestic Wines.  The wine maker welcome members of the company to go to Spain and assist with the harvest and the wine making process. 

A very good wine and very typical of the wines now coming from Spain, its own character and own flavours, good with friends or with food.  

The wine was the Godello.  (£9.99)

Reviewed by The Wine Gang recently thus:

Aromatic style with subtle white flower notes (2012 Vintage)

First came Albariño, now the Godello variety is doing its bit to confirm Galicia as the source of Spain's most arresting whites, produced here in aromatic style with subtle white flower notes amid the lemon curd, white peach and pear, while the palate is fleet of foot with a zesty zip. (The Wine Gang,, June 2013)

This was followed by the first of the evening's wines, a fine Chardonnay from the Clare Valley Australia.  (£11.99)

The lengths  gone into to produce these wines and all the wines are considerable, it seems the at the New World growers are very determined to try to increase quality by good practise. In this case it means picking by hand but never during the day. in this way the grapes should be more consistent that those subjected to varying sunshine and heat during the course of the day.

What a good wine this was, and this was the lower prices of the two.

This was followed by the big hitter from California.  From the Russian River Valley. 2009 (£30.00)

A superb wine to compare and a fine wine to taste. Easy on the palette with great and subtle Chardonnay flavours coming through well.  This was a special occasion wine for sure. The sort of price that is paid in a restaurant for a bottle of House White but infinitely better. Probably the best wine of he evening.

And now the reds

The Cabernet Sauvignon.

The first

Grown under the Californian Sun and a gutsy wine it was as well.  Peppery flavours along with the usual rounded feel of CS. To this taster a wine that needed more time in the bottle.   So to have with  a steak and or beef casserole  a very good wine but not quite as polished as you may want given its pricing at £14.99 per bottle.

And to conclude:

The Two Hands, intriguingly named, Sexy Beast. well a quite memorable film by the same name and would this £23.00 stormer be as memorable?  I think it fair to say the views were mixed, yes a very fine wine and yes with a venison or beef dish a great pairing, but at this price levels there are some very good wines to choose from. On balance most thought, yes it was good, in fact very good.

One bonus of course is the label, if drinking with friends that alone would ensure a good conversation would follow after looking more closely.

To go with the wines some great cheeses.

Its often said that to live near a Waitrose is a great advantage, and 'twas true when it came to the cheeses. All from our local branch and all very well received.

In order of eating:

Dom Vallage triple cream cheese.  What's not like when the cheese maker adds double cream to the unfinished cheese to bolster the fat content, bad for you, well only if you eat too much but gorgeous!

Number 2 The goat, Rosary Goats cheese, as ever many non goat cheese eaters here, but a very fine cheese. Mild and good with Chardonnay.  Not a token cheese  you understand but an artisan cheese from the New Forest, mild, non goat flavour.

Number 3 Gorwydd Caerphilly, just lovely, we are so fortunate in having such a diverse range of cheeses available and this one was as treat.

Number 4 The Cornish Yarg.

Lovely cheese wrapped in nettles, excellent and voted the BEST UK cheese in 2012.


Date of the next meeting

May 30th A resumé of the Wine and tour of the Loire

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Ladies Choice - and what would that be?

Friday January 25th, and another year in the life of the Wine Club ticks by. Yes its hard to imagine but there it is, we now enter our third year and what better way to announce it than to have the wines based on a 'Ladies Choice'.

Ironically, what better way than to have, for our birthday, midwives in charge!  So the '14 season starts with a very good selection of wines, the choice of a team of members, as it happens, or so I am told, that the team including midwives, our own masters of wine.

From the left >  Ita, Julie, Nikki, Sarah and Hazel.

The wines may have been chosen on the basis of a Ladies Choice, but the wines went down more than just well,  they were exceptional and enjoyed by all member of the Wine Club irrespective of gender.

The Roll Call

#1  Crement de Bourgogne Brut Intense 'Billy Lapierre'

What a good starter, a fresh and vibrant fizz, yes we cannot call this Champagne but made from the same grapes and vines gown on similar soils and produced using the same methods of production.  A very good and good value alternative perhaps.  Gown in Burgundy, for many the premier wine area of France and from the Pinot Noir grape.

#2 Finca Flichman's Sparkling Extra Brut.

Another fizz but to follow the Pinot Noir was never going to be an easy act to follow.  A very good comparison, not so much of a Rosé but more a blush wine, not at all bad but not able to show the strength of character of the previous wine.

#3 Esk Valley

This was just the very best NZ Sauvignon Blanc, a superb wine with strong aromas, a wonderful and lingering taste and showing all the SB characteristics that has made this grape  such a favourite and why it has become the 'signature wine' of New Zealand.  Most members felt the wine was worthy of the title  Highly Recommended.

#4 Vianazza gPG, Garganega/Piot Grigio.

And now to Northern Italy, the Venito area for our second still white.  Italy, such a great wine nation and Veneto a huge producer of wines for Italy.  I guess we all are aware of the unique position Italy finds itself in with its huge array of grape varieties, and here we have a variety that may not be too well known, we have the Garganega blended with the ever popular Piont Grigio make for an easy drinking wine.

#5 Los Boldos

To Chile for the first red, a rather fine Pinot Noir, aged for 6 months in oak to add some depth. A good wine, perhaps a better wine when taken with food.

#6 Fleurie

The French do produce some very exceptional wines and here was just such an example, a soft, mellow and full flavoured wine from a vineyard still in the same family since 1754.  The area of France is the same area that produces the famous Beaujolais wines with the Flurie coming from the same grape types but have a reputation (and price)  elevating them to star status.  Highly Recommended.

#7 LA Mascaronne  -  Cote de Provence

For anyone that has visited the Var in Provence the wine that immediately returns you to the warmth, sights and smells of the area is such a wine. Almost all wine produced in the Cote de Provence is Rosé, in addition the area has produced wines since the Romans ran the show. So it comes as no surprise that these wines are memorable and good.  The matching of this wine is warmth, eating good food with friends. So not at all unlike Friday

The cheese selection was varied, good and based on local artisan cheeses as far as possible as well as a French Reblochon.  The cheese came via the cheese store based in the Covered Market in Oxford.

Notable were the two cheeses 'made' for the colleges, Oxford Blue and Isis White. Both very special.

This blog would be very remiss if it did not report on the mid meeting break, yes the quiz.  The definite slant was that of the way the wine producers and imbibers have treated women in relation to wine over the years.  A very good quiz with demanding questions based loosely on the format of University Challenge and with our very own  Jeremy Paxman in the form of Mat Coburn, and very good job done as well.

The raffle was won by Adrian who was able to take home a bottle of wine with the intriguing label, Chocolate Box, so we await to hear of this wine in due course.

To use the jargon of the day, my understanding that the 'team leader' for the evening was Ita Moore,  she and her team did did a great job but there now is more. Ita is taking part on the Blenheim Triathlon.

For those who are not that familiar the event it entails three demanding  elements, for Ita this will mean swimming in the lake a distance of 750 mtrs, followed by cycling 19.8 kms and finally running another 5.7 kms.     This is an event that is quite definitely not for softies.

The event is to raise money for leukaemia and lymphoma Research.  Ita hopes to add £500.00 to their funds and asks anyone who would like donate and sponsor her to do so via this link: >

Dates for the diary are

Date of the next meeting:

March 28th, with wines presented by Majestic Wine Warehouse (Witney)

A weekend in France.

Please also pop in your diaries the dates of the Wine Club Long weekend Wine tasting excursion to the Nantaise region of France :- Friday 9th - Sunday 11th may 2014.    More details will follow as the full programme is worked out -  but some intend to drive over and others fly into Nantes and either share vehicles or Hire cars to allow 2 x vineyards on Friday 9th, 2 x vineyards on Saturday 10th, Sunday Morning 'Pot Luck'/Picnic with wine.

Finally possible chance to present the wines you care for, at the May meeting, May 30 (TBC).  Please email me with your