Saturday, 26 November 2016

...But once a year...

The Club's November meeting always seems to mark the start of the Christmas season.

All through the year we members of the Club work hard with a never ending quest to improve our knowlege of wines and also to enjoy new wines.  At this year end meeting  the emphasis changes, here we want to enjoy some good wines, of course, in good company, naturally,  and maybe stretch our collective minds by tackling some brain teasers.

The evening is a great example of the self-help attitude that the members of the club relish.  All the foods are brought along, amazingly without much planning other than the general guide, please bring 'finger foods'. Amazingly we end up with a great selection of foods and all of a high, high standard.

Then there are the wines, and here we did a sneaky thing, we put all the wines into carafes and asked the question, what are we drinking, answers please made into scrabble words and yes you only have the tiles needed, no spares and yes you need to use all those tiles.

Lots of head scratching and hard work resulted in everyone, or every table resolving the question, What is it?

All very impressive and challenging, and for this we must thank Chris who put in a lot of work , thought and effort in making this work so well.

But what were the wines?  We wanted to have wine that was in some way special and that was suitable to go with a wide range of foods.  This is what we had::

The 'Fizz" was the Cremant du Jura, a Chardonnay fizz from that area of France, all agreed that this was a fine choice and a very good wine, all the more so given its modest price at under £8.00 per bottle. Oh yes and nice bottle as well!  (Available from Aldi £7.29)

The white wine was another popular wine  and a steal at the price, a wine not commonly known and often talked down but one that suited the evening well. Light yet with some fruit.  This was from the Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Range, Verdicchio..  Normally available at £7.00 but currently on offer at £6.00.

For the Reds we bought via Majestic Wines, following a wine tasting at the Witney branch we sought something that was slightly 'off piste' but with a strong character.  The Emilo Moro hit the spot and how. A succulent and rich red, made with the Tempranillo grape, subtle tannins and bags of black fruit.  Highly recommended.  (Majestic @ £16.99)

We added a 'stickie' to the list of wines and ours was the De Bortilli Botrytis Semillon 2013.  How was it, as ever, some loved it to bits,  others, were more muted and no thank you. But that is how it is with such wines, those that love them love the depth flavour and the luscious taste, this one was not quite up there in terms of quality, maybe a 6 out of ten type wine. (£10.00 per half bottle - Majestic Wine Warehouse)

The Usual Suspects

A resume of the coming years programme was shared, this will kick off in January with the very able and knowledgeable wine expert, Toby Chiles, the date of the meeting is JANUARY 27.  All the other dates and full programme will follow when confirmed.

In the meantime a few shots of the evening:

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Germany has no Reds

Just one of the many misconceptions dispelled last night at the Wine Club was that Germany does not make red wine in quantity and quality.

Let me explain, at our meeting of the Wine Club for September, we were very fortunate in having a presentation by two members who know Germany and know German wines well.  Renata and John have strong connections to the vineyards of Northern Germany stretching back over many years.

We enjoyed the wines from one vineyard, the vineyard of Burggarten in the Ahr region of Germany.

How last night was special though was that, in addition to some cracking wines, we were treated to a tour of the area by description and photographs.   Within the Club we are very lucky in having members that have intimate knowlege of wine areas, great knowlege of the wines and a passion for both, John and Renata were able to share both last night.

In the past we have had meeting where German wines have been discussed, the issue is for those from the UK  getting hands on German wine, the fact is that only small amounts are shipped to the here. Partly because most German wines are drunk at home and partly because German wines have a reputation that stretches back to the days of the dreaded warm, overly sweet "Blue Nun' wine that many people now associate with German wine.  Our speakers bought the wines we drank last night back via motor car.

In fact the wines of Germany are both varies in type and of high quality and, yes comes in other colours than red!

The first three wines were white.

Of these the first was also the most popular wine of the evening

The Weissburgunder was a very fine wine indeed. Not dry, not sweet, great overtones of fruit. Perfect for drinking with friends in the summer or any season.

The Grauburgunder was good but was overshadowed by its illustrious proceeding wine. 

The final white was a classic Mosel Riesling, and what a cracker that wine was. A textbook taste, if one can have that with the Riesling grape. Spot on as they say

The raffle winners were lucky enough to have wines that we have seen before, wines that were part of the presentation of Wine Labels

The reds were all based on the Pinot grape but not all Pinot Noir, only the last wine, and to many the best Red of the night.

The burning question of the night is "Where can I buy these very good wines, and the very good answer is that you must drive to the Ahr region of Germany and visit the vineyards.  You would be sure of a great welcome and enjoy a very good weekend in the area. John was telling us that it takes just nine hours (door to door) to get to the area. Although he didn't mention it I'm suspecting that english is available widely.


Date to the next meeting, November 25th.  Our 'social evening and 'pot luck' supper.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Brilliant speaker, brilliant wines.

July 2016, remembered for many things not all of them good but one thing that is good is the weather, at last Summer has arrived. The hottest day of the year was on the Tuesday just past and for the Wine Club's evening meeting a wonderful Summer's evening could be enjoyed.  One of those evenings that  are very special and somehow very English.  This feeling made all the more so by the village cricket teams playing within earshot of our open windows, so the sound of leather on willow and not accompanied by warm beer as immortalised by John Major but this time accompanied by some very special wines.

The Wine Club has been very fortunate over the years by having some very good speakers with some very good wines to speak of. This was very much the case last night when we were indeed fortunate. After all how many wine lovers have had the pleasure of hearing a New Zealand wine maker speak and discuss New Zealand wines.  Our indebtedness is owed to both Louise Kelly, she is the Aunt to our speaker for the meeting so a big thank you to Louise for asking your nephew to speak last night.

Lee Winston is clearly someone who loves his job and loves the work and the industry that he has chosen to be part of. Lee is a winemaker in New Zealand.    He gave superb talk of the wines and the background to the wine industry of New Zealand.

When organising the evening Lee was very specific about the types of wines and which vineyards the wines should be sourced from.

So Lee, if you get to read this, THANK YOU, a great evening, and one that all the members we remember with pleasure for many years.

In addition to great wines great cheeses, but let me first go through the wine choices.

Lee was telling us some facts about the NZ wine industry, for example 80% + of wine exported is the Sauvignon Blanc grape based wine, and when we think of NZ it's that type of wine we often think of.  Its a wine that is loved by the Brits but strangely when made in New Zealand tastes just so very different from the French offering.  Lee though, quite rightly thought we all will know the wine so  instead we were treated to some great Riesling as the first wine.

What a very good choice and bottle of wine. As most members know, here is grape that is something of a chameleon in the hands of the wine maker, sweet/ dry, high/low alcohol. oak, non oak and a wine that can be very different dependant of the methods of production and, as the French may say, the terroir.

This Riesling, a wine not often though of as one coming from NZ was a cracker, the first of many.

Just the right side of dry and just the right amount of Riesling taste, sorry but this is the only way I can think of describing this wine.

This one of two from the Villa Maria estate, a companion wine to the Savvy Blanc that they make, another good wine, perhaps a label to buy when you see it.

Also the lowest cost wine of the evening at c£8.50 / bottle.

I should just add that all the wines came via the net, none available in the local high street.  The two firms that can supply one or both were:


Both offer a good delivery service.

The cheese we ate with this was a local cows milk cheese called St Eadburgha, a beautiful Camembert look a like but not from Normandy but from Hook Norton.   This cheese came from the cheese man who sells at the market in Witney on Thursday and most Saturdays.  He consistently has a great range and well priced cheeses - he can offer good guidance to if you want to buy.

On to wine number 2, A chardonnay from New Zealand, whatever next, whatever next indeed, well form this vineyard that would be a Gewurztraminer.

The Chardonnay was superb, I know that many shun the grape, too many headaches after an over-oaked number perhaps, this was smooth, a great flavour and a delight. Highly recommended.

The cheese seller of Witney Market put us on to a wonderful Goat Cheese to go with the Chardonnay, mild, soft, a perfect companion to the wine.  This will take you to the cheese makers web site.  and while adding web sites this is the site of the cheese seller

Now to wine number three, the Gewurztraminer, this was one wine where the experience of knowlege of Lee really helped, how many know that this wine is available, let's be honest the grape is a little unusual even from 'Old World' producers but in New Zealand, well its hardly grown is the truth of the matter and very little is exported.  The best wine of the night, well that is all down to the individual choice, but this was very popular indeed and more so as very unexpected.

The cheese here was that old stalwart for the club, the triple cream  A French cheese that is known as the boyfriend loser, it seem that some men will prefer this to the girlfriends, well maybe but a cheese that is made with full cream milk and added cream as well, Yes, very good too!  A Waitrose availability.

During the break we had a small presentation of Wine Trivia, and then on to the Red Wines.

The first of these was the Pinot Noir

This is often called the other signature wine from NZ, boy was this a good choice, all the great characteristics of this wine type was here in spades, just superb. 

The cheese was Epoisses, a very pungent smell but a very good taste as well.  Available from Waitrose.

Red Wine number two was a Merlot / Cabernet blend from Hawkes Bay.  A blend that is liked by many, a good blend as well, this was an evening when all the wines can be recommended.   This one to have with the hearty meal.  The cheese was the award winning Caerphilly, again from the market.  Exceptional.

The last wine, a  Syrah, a grape that for some can be too 'peppery', but  not here, another stunning example. Coupled with a Montgomery Chedder, aged and lovely, The combination brought an end to an exceptional evening of wines and cheeses and a great look at the NZ wine industry. All very good!


Wine labels, Martin Marais gave a great talk on  this subject and mentioned that if you had some unusual labels to share then send them across, so here is the first of the unusual wine labels, so a big thanks to Carol and Phil, this is a wine from Madeira. Great label!

Have a great holiday if you are about to depart, and we look forward to seeing you at the next meeting which will be SEPTEMBER 30th.  John and Renate will be sharing with us their favourite German wines.

Bruce Hammersley

Email link below.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

You can't tell a wine by it's cover

How often do we look at the label on the bottle of wine before we open it?

Well it seems quite a lot and this is something that the marketeers of wine are fast realising. The label draws us to the bottle particularly when we buy a wine on impulse.   For our Club's meeting though we move on from the impulse buy to another level, not so much about the wine but very much about the label.

Within the club we can now look back over the various meeting and realise that we heard a number of very good speakers and speakers that bring their own nuances to the area we are all interested in, wine and it's enjoyment.

Martin Marais last spoke to us about his own family connections with South Africa, a terrific talk and at the meeting tonight he gave another excellent talk, but this time it was more about the outside of the bottle than the contents inside.

Martin once again a big thank you...

What of the wines?

Before the wines a word about the cheeses and the welcome wine, the writer of this Blog has just returned form the Loire region of France and was able to bring cheese and also some wine. The starter wine was a Loire Sauvignon Blanc. A very acceptable glass as well. The cheeses were also from the region. 

The first wine had the most startling of labels, more Hammer Horror than a relaxed wine. In fact the wine was Italian wine and made with an Italian Grape.   

The wine was just fine, an easy drinking wine and with the added advantage of us to taste a grape variety that was a first for the club. 

And the label,  

The wine is one of the Co-op 'irresistible' range.  

The next wine had a less startling label, in fact a fine label. 

 From the sellers web site:

A lovely white wine from Maison Williams Chase this is an expertly made blend of Vermentino (Rolle) and Viognier.  Called "Papillon", French for butterfly, the name alludes to the metamorphosis which takes place producing a truly special wine after months of skilled and delicate work.  William Chase obtained the small domaine of Chateau Constantin in 2012 and are producing innovative and very enjoyable, first class wines overseen by head winemaker, Dale Clarke.   The grapes for Papillon come from old vines planted on the highest point in the domaine where the terroir has a rich minerality surrounded by undisturbed forests and local Herbes de Provence.  

Those that buy William Chase Vodka and / or Gin will know the name. 

The last white has, by comparison a more subtle label but on closer examination a very interesting one:

A great label and a great wine, this the grape that some love some hate, the Riesling Grape, but this bottle comes a long way to be with us, the wine grown and made in Washington State by the Charles Smith organisation.  

A very good wine as well. 

The cheese we had the Whites were all soft, a Camembert type as well as a sheep and a goat cheese. All well received and a good matching

The red wines were a mix of surprises, The General wine that was almost chose itself given Martin's connection with South Africa.  The wine label was linked to the Boer War, the wine called The General from the  Boer and Brit was from South Africa's Stellenbosch region, it was a Bordeaux-style blend of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Aged in French oak, a delicious, full-blooded wine.

Martin made no secret of his love of Malbec so the eye-catching label designed to leave the buyer no confusion over what he or she was to buy, an Argentinian Malbec, what it tastes of and what to eat with the wine.  This from the Co-op again.

The penultimate wine had a relatively boring label until one looked more closely, Chinese writing, yes a first for sure, a Chinese wine from Wuhia Valley. 

The question is, what of the wine. Not the star of the evening for sure. So best described as 'interesting' but better wines out there. 

The final wine, a South African Pinotage, was the best of the reds, but this is a wine that split the membership, for some just brilliant, for some OTT.  Best buy to try.

Its label was a clue, it did somehow give a chocolate feel, comforting, warming and a good wine to have reading a book by the fire - not unlike a chocolate bar!  

In summary - what did people make of the labels, did they help in choosing wine?  

Here there was little consensus, they gave no clue as to the wine so as an aid to choice no. Did they encourage the buyer, well oddly for some yes, the Vampire seen in the Grecula wine may have done just that but for as many if not more it was a barrier to the purchase. It was hard to take it seriously. Where does that leave us, well I guess it is all in the eye of the beholder, the OTT label may help in taking you to a wine but would not help in making the decision, in fact probably stop you from buying.  Male or female, it seemed to make little difference. 

All in all a very good, different and enjoyable evening. A very big thanks you to Martin.


Date of the next meeting 

JULY 22nd 


Sunday, 20 March 2016

But not the blind leading the blind

Wine Tasting and wine knowledge, the the common bonds and appreciations that we, as members of the Freeland Wine Club share.  It was a combination of these that was the main event at the meeting last night in our village hall.

We are lucky having a truly independent wine merchant on our doorstep.   The next village to us here in the centre of Oxfordshire is the village of Eynsham and the wine merchant is The Eynsham Cellars.    For our meeting we were very lucky to have as our speaker for the evening one of the proprietors of the business, Oli Gauntlett, he was assisted by Gervase Wood.

Oli and Gervase presented the first wine which I think most of us would have little difficulty in recognising as a Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc.   The aim of the evening was to allow us to develop more wane tasting skills. This was the first wine, this was one wine most of us could recognise fairly readily, massive fruit overtones with acidity and the colour of one of the countries favourite tipples, New Zealand Savvy Blanc.  This was just a taster, to get know the methods we needed to use to even attempt to identify wine and to place them, all further wines would be served 'blind'. We then needed to clarify  provenance, grape type, complexity, tannin levels, acidity and so on.

So yes an evening of tasting but also one of learning and the cultivation of taste and tasting technique.

For this we need to give a very big thank you to Oli, he had the difficult task helping us proceed on this journey of discovery as well as guiding through the wines,  Thanks Oli.

So the wines: 

The first wine of the evening was the welcome wine, and this was a fine Rosé, the Bergerac Wines are known to some members as being easy on the pallet and on the wallet, a very under rated area of France from the British buyers perspective and for many this Rosé proved the point that Rosé can be a fine wine with both taste and structure.

And on to the tastings. As I mentioned the first wine, and an intro to what was to follow was the highly characteristic NZ Savvy Blanc, the Esk Valley. It seems that this is one of the stores big sellers. Massive citrus tones over acidity, this SB just a million miles from the French offering with the same grape. If nothing else this wide variation is enough to silence those who mock the French and their use of the term "terroir'.  £9.99

Then on to the slightly oaked Chardonnay, but of course we had to identify this from our own testing and analytical ability.  This, surprisingly, was not that easy, in fact most found it very tough.  Amazing when you don't know what is in the bottle that you cannot tell what it is, white wine yes but on from that, Chardonnay? Oaked? New World? Voignier? Endless qestions and not that obvious answers. So a great start to us all climbing our individual learning curves.  £8.19

The third white a Gerwirztraminer, didi anyone identify this very popular grape variety, did anyone realise that this was not German or an Alsace wine but actually came from Chile, a resounding no was the answer. All the whites were well received, all seemed to go very well with the cheeses, a mix of types and cow, sheep and goat, but more of the cheese info below. £8.48

As a break in the proceedings Oli arranged for a short quiz, trivia questions which failed to give a winner, just too many correct answers, so many in fact that the quizmaster ran out of questions and had to devise a question to stump us and hopefully highlight a brain of brains.  

Then on to the Reds.

A great selection, 

I think a lot were able get this wine nailed, not due to its taste, which we should have picked up upon but more by its colour, or lack of.  Always a favourite with many members and a fine wine, very typical of the grape.  The Wild Earth Vineyards Pinot Noir and another NZ wine, Central Otago Valley. £21.99 

There was the Shiraz grape, well we all know that Shiraz tends to be on the peppery side of taste spectrum so how come that one was not like that at all but just a fine wine without this signature take that some love.   I notice the Australian wine maker describes this as brooding shiraz, I cannot argue with that.£12.99

The final wine, surely everyone would get this wine, but no, the blind tasting expertise was not yet a level that allowed many to identify that this wine was a Rioja.   A very fine Rioja as well. £13.99


Once again the man I am going to call The Cheese Man of Witney, Witney Market, supplied us with the range to cheeses. If you have chance on a Thursday morning it may be worth your time to look him up and see what he has on offer. Always able to give a full background on the cheeses, he also has some great olives. Well worth the trip for those alone. 

And the cheeses were:

Rollright, Oxford Blue, Jowett, Sarsden,Ruby and Brinkburn. 

At the next meeting will be on the evening of MAY 27th, Martin Marais will be presenting and the subject, The Label on the Bottle.