Thursday, 30 November 2017

If it's November it must be Christmas!

My oh my, how does the time fly, it seems a trice since last time these words hit the Blog, yes it  has been the November meeting of the Wine Cub and that also means that Christmas is just about upon us, at least that is how it feels.

This year we had the great foods, all brought by the wonderful members, so a big thank you for all the goodies, all were good, we all enjoyed the ultimate pot luck supper, not so much pot luck more a very lucky dip.

We all enjoyed the foods but we also enjoyed the competition, and this was no mean feat by Chris, a competion that was both a challenge for the individual but also gave rise to the winning table of competitors.

No less than 12 wines needed to be identified from a list provided, but this list contained many more than than just the wines of offer. No easy task but never the less one that the membership approached with enthusiasm.

What were the wines?

Here they are in all their glory.

And a very big that you to Chris for working very hard to come up with the concept and then all the wines and tasting notes...The wines:



and the stickies:

The date of the next meeting is to be JANUARY 26th,  guest speaker, Toby Childs

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Staffordshire Wines. 

Impressive wines, presented with passion and skill  by members of the team from Halfpenny Green Wines.

Over the years  our Wine Club has a seen mix of speakers, members, wine merchants and wine experts  come to show us the wines they like.   Sometimes, just occasionally, we are privileged to have speakers that are also wine makers.  These are the people that have the passion that comes from devoting their working lives to the production of the very best wines that they are able to make.  So it was last night with members of the Halfpenny Green Vineyard

Here the link to the vineyard

Our speakers were Ben and Helen, they gave a great presentation taking us through the history and growth of the vineyard, and also the technique and methods needed to make good wine in the English climate.

Amazingly the Wine Club has never had an evening devoted to English Wine, there can be no excuse for this, you would have to live on Mars not to be aware of the number of vineyards in the country and the number of wines winning accolades for quality, this particularly so with wines with bubbles.  So it would be logical to start the tasting with 'fizz' . Not just a fizz  though, two in fact, a white and rosé.

The first two wines, served with salty food, yes and we had to push the boat out here and accompany with salty crisps, well that is one recommendation, I suspect a cheese would be better, but the wines, both crisp and pointing up the difference often seen with an English wine.  The lack of sun can give a more acid wine.  With the fizz this was no bad thing but one that would need to become used to.  Of the two the Rosé was the preferred.

Now two whites.  Not just white wine but very pleasing white wines and wines made from grapes that we are not used to. A result in a clean and different taste.  Both very satisfactory and worth seeking out.

The Rosé wine was another hit with many, as readers will know rosé has become the wine of choice for many in the last year or two, and here was an English rosé, well named English Rose, this wine showed the crispness and acidity present in the English wine.  The feeling was mixed about the wine, for some not quite hitting the spot but for the others  a very good example of the wine type. 

The evening has a break here, and on this night a amusing quiz hopelessly run in the loosest possible way by the Club's organiser, very amusing and not taken too seriously.

The first red of the night was an extremely smooth red wine, a wine that could be easily be drunk as an aperitif or with fish or cheese based foods.  Very impressive and well priced.  Currently available from Marks and Spencer.

The last wine of the evening a stickie, oh my how lovely these sweet wines are, served with chocolate on this evening, just a lovely combo and super wine very reasonably priced and very good.

A number of members wished to buy wines, we will be emailing further info on this. 

AOB   Members may want to note the date of the next meeting and the year end meeting and as such a social evening, further details will follow, the date:   November 24th

Sunday, 30 July 2017

It's Washington but not DC

What a fascinating thing wine is, produced all over the world and in the US produced in all the states of that nation.  Washington State has a production of 17 million cases of wine worth an estimated 2 billion dollars.

With a climate that can be like a european climate it is little surprise then that the wines from the state are so good and welcomed by the European palate.

With so much wine produced you would think that we would be able to taste such wine easily but no, the good folk of Washington State also like to drink the wine  and so very little gets exported to the UK. How lucky we are then to have a Seattle born member who travels to the States on a regular basis and is willing to bring wines back for us to enjoy.

A very big THANK YOU to Greg, a great speaker, a true believer of the outstanding wines of Washington State and someone who's enthusiasm and knowlege allowed us all to try and taste wines that are simply not available in the UK.

Not only wines though, in addition to wine the food matching was very good, something of a first were the Duck Rolls to accompany the Riesling, all in all excellent for which another big THANK YOU to AMY.

As mentioned most Washington State wines are not available in the UK, but one certainly is, both from the Eynsham wine merchant and also M&S, The wine is the Kung Fu Girl.

The State produces more Riesling than any other white wine, so one can expect good things and this wine, with the amazing label will not disappoint.

The other Riesling of the evening was the Chateau Ste Michelle.  Both wines were of the classic Riesling type, that hint of tarmac on the nose followed by the great Riesling taste.

The last of the whites was the Semillion, for the all the world you could be forgiven for thinking this wine came from France, but no, quite firmly from the US.

After the whites a quiz, the trivia questions were found to be more than trivia to us but great fun all the same.  The usual competitive membership rose to the occasion with the winner being Mat,

Mat chose as his prize, what was for most the best red, possible the best wine of the evening, a Bordeaux blend, with promises that it could be cellared for a further 20 years, although it's hard to imagine being able to resist for that length of time such a smooth and good wine. Mellow, with great fruit tastes.

But I am ahead of myself here, the first wine was the Syrah, again a classic Syrah peppery taste, great for the BBQ.

That last wine was the most expensive but not the best to most people's opinion.  The wines, broadly speaking, increased in cost as the evening progresses, the last one had the intriguing name of Ethos, a lovely wine yes, and another example of solid wine production and quality from the US.

Another great evening, we are indebted to Greg and Amy, many thanks.

The next meeting will be on the evening of September 29th.  More details to follow.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

And the girls have it!

The meetings of the Wine Club, always a joy, always good and always with wines that can excite, please and offer new tastes to members.

For this meeting a great deal of research was needed, how to find suitable wines to taste that both are good wines but also ones with good labels.

Our hosts for the evening are three members, all with, as it turned out, with impeccable taste, both for the wines in the bottle and the labels on the bottle.

A very big thanks you for all your hard work and diligence, a great selection and great labels as well.

I happen to know that 30 plus wines needed to be tasted to come up with the seven shared with members at the evening's meeting.

A stickie, Spanish, Australian and South African wines all represented.

The experts:

What were these wines?

#1  A Gavi - Piedmont.

Ripe peaches and summer fruits a plenty and this kind and generous wine. The grape, Cortese, able to combine acidity to give freshness while still carrying the fruit tones.  A lovely Italian wine and perfect for the hot summers evening, in fact just like the one we enjoyed.

£10.99 at Majestic Wine Warehouse

#2  Fruit Orchestra.  

This wine is a fruity, highly drinkable blend of two wines normally associated with France rather the South Africa, Chenin Blanc and Voignier.

The Chenin comes from SA which is now the country that produces more of this wine then any other country in the world. This a grape that can be tart like a Granny Smith to fruity like peaches and and melons. 

Combined with Voigner the blend produces a soft, fruity and delicate wine, ideal as an apero but also good with light pasta dishes.

The wine chosen by our own peripatetic musician and conductor, the label was a perfect fit.

#3 LA LA Land

Heres a wine chosen for the label, but, surprisingly a design that pre dates the blockbuster movie. 

A wine made with the  "Rioja ' grape, Temprinilla, but this one form Australia. The gave a softer wine but with the complexity  to the European wine the Brits love so much, so interesting. Also a good wine to drink with highly flavored dishes.

£7.99 at Majestic Wines 

#4 Matsu Wines

Here we have the label with eye candy, well certainly for the ladies.  the grapes that go into making this wine are old, up to 100 years old and the various labels in the range reflect this age, this wine is the younger grapes just 90 years old and so a youngish man shown on the label.  The contents, well here was a, what shall we say, robust wine, on our table loved by some and spat out by others, so if you like your wines robust this is one for you.

#5  Passione e Sentmento

This  a wonderful Italian Red wine, with a great label of course. The label being an image taken from the wall in Verona were, it is said, Shakespeare's  Romeo and Juliet was set. Everyday people from the world over leave love letters, thousands of them so the wine has a job to do here and match up to that sentiment.  

For many this was the best wine of the evening, for those searching for the soft but complex Italian wine then the search is over, just wonderful.

Majestic sell this wine @ £8.99 per bottle.

#6  The Rosé

What can one say about Rosé wines, for many 'not proper' wines for the Brits, just brilliant to have in the Summer, and not just Brits, all over the world Rosé is very popular, well popular that may be but finding a good one is not that easy. so this little cracker from California came as  a surprise and good surprise, first the taste, really good and the price, really good!  Available at the Sainsbury at  £5.25 per bottle just now.   Great with strawberries.

#7 The Desert Wine

Another wine type that people love or hate with little middle ground. This was a lovely, not too sweet, sweetie.

From Spain and the Torres family, tastes of Orange blossoms, Turkish delight and cloves.

To be served at 8 degrees and, as in our tasting, a chocolate Orange!

£7.99 at Waitrose.


A possible visit to the Champagne area of France, the idea was suggested that we aim to take a weekend in the Riems area  and visit the area famous for fine Champagne.  More details to follow but the response was positive.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Do they make wine in Portugal?

Well of course they make table wines and very many of them as well.  Although almost everyone would know and enjoy Port the table wine industry is both alive and well in Portugal.

For our Spring meeting we were able to enjoy a wine trip around Portugal and taste the well known and not quite as well known wines as well as some truly great port.

Within the Wine Club it is clear that we have members that are very able at presenting and discussing wines.

Last night we enjoyed the very good presentation given by the team that is Dan and Jayne.  A double thanks are due, not only did we have two presenters but also ones that had gone that extra mile to provide a well thought through collection of wine types and also the foods that good alongside them. Jayne was out of the country on the day of presentation as had Dan been earlier in the week, In spite of this they had acquired for us Portugese foods as well as a great collection of wines.  Many thanks for sharing your knowlege and skills with us, this was greatly appreciated.

Before the wines the team:  Dan and Jayne

We enjoyed two whites, two reds and three Ports, this first of the Whites was the  Tapadas de Villar Vinho Verde  Ex M&S at £9:00 

This was a good wine but not an outstanding one, perhaps best to quaff in sunshine before a meal. It is recommended to serve well chilled which has the effect of reducing further the citrus background to the wine.

Made from  a  blend of Loureiro, Arinto and Trajudura.  itself showing that Portugese wines are not made from the more commonly used varieties from the majority of the EU, Cab-sav, Chardonnay etc.

2015 Nobre Colheits Alvarnho Vinho Verde, @ Lidl priced at £5.99

This was a step up from our first wine, a much clearer and interesting taste, a summer wine and one that left a good mark.  The added bonus was the price, I think one of the first wines enjoyed by the Club from Lidl. Almost half the cost of the previous wine and almost twice as much positive comment.  Both wines of the Vinho Verde type. Both very fresh and an alternative in tastes from many  European wines, To be recommended by most and by Jane McQuitty of The Times, This tasted with a hard cheese.

The second of the reds was the Duque de Viseu, from Eynsham Cellars @£9.99.

Following the white wines a short trivia spot on a subject that was not trivia, Bruce gave a short resume of the thinking on how much we may drink and remain within accepted guide lines for alcohol consumption. This came down to little and not that often, a max of 14 units per week for both men and women but to be combined with time off from drinking, three days without alcohol and leaving some flexibility of how much and when to take on board that wine.

The first red was from the Upper Doura region of Norther Portugal. Smooth for sure, not too much tannin in this bottle, although matured in French and American Oak. A very good wine to have with a meat rich meals.

Our local vintner provided our last table wine, Duque de Viseu at £9.99.

The wine must represent a good buy, very smooth and made from an exceptional vineyard. Made with Tempranillo grapes as well as Touriga Nactional and Jaen.  Giving a herby, smooth table wine that cries out for red meets to accompany. Recommended.


The port trade has been dominated by the British and British families from the 17th Century, this has lead to a close bond between the UK and Portugal based on this trade.  We all know Port but maybe don't drink as much as in the past.  The tasting will go some way to address this, we tasted three Ports, the first a white, followed by a Ruby and  a Tawny as well as full descriptions of the trade and Port types from Dan and Jayne.

The first Port was surprise, here was a white Port  to be served as an apero , sadly for the wine we couldn't help thinking and comparing to the more usual Port, Ruby, Tawny etc, this was wrong as this would stand on its own feet very happily as an apero wine.

Taylors Chip Dry White Port  Waitrose @£13.29

This wine id matured for several years in vast Oak vats and blended carefully to produce the final product. At 18% alcohol it has to represent a star buy.

On to the ruby style port, the wonderful  Fonseca Terra Prima Organic Reserve Port.  c£18.00 at Waitrose. 

A stunning  wine, we tasted a with a creamy blue cheese, a wonderful combo. A wine with a silver medal form the decanter wine challenge. Highly recommended.

and finally, the star of the show was Graham's 10 year old Tawny Port.   £18:00 at Waitrose

Those on our table though, well here is a Port that shouts, why wait for Christmas to buy Port, a wine with a strong presence of alcohol, great complexity and wonderful depth in flavour.

Date of next meeting:

May 26th

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Bolivia? You're kidding!

Toby Chiles, we owe you a great debt of appreciation.

The first meeting of 2017 needs to be 'Box Office' and so it was, we were lucky enough to enjoy both a greatly skilled speaker but also a presentation that gave members both expertise and knowlege.

We had an introduction to different wines, wines that we almost certainly would not have tasted without being introduced by Toby.  We  also learned very much more about the matching of wines to food types.

So, Toby a B I G thank you, you did great job which we all  enjoyed and came away  more skilled then when we arrived - perfect!

One of the themes for the night was the point that when we buy wines we perhaps should walk past the usual and move to wines that are outside of our personal comfort zones. What did Toby mean by this?   He suggests that we need to look out for wines that are not from places we associate with wine making, places like, India, Mexico, Bolivia.  Sometimes made with grapes we may have never heard of.   His rational behind this is the fact that the market for wine is highly competitive and few outlets are going to risk placing poor wines on the valuable shelf space.

Well that is the background but what was the results?

All the wines were tasted blind, and none of the wines were classed as poor. On the contrary the standard was high and all intersting.

The wines:

The Greek Atlantis wine, Lime and pears dominate, followed by off sweet finish.  (M&S @£12:00)

The Romanian Paparuda Feteasca Regla, here we a have an example of a dry white wine that has a burden to carry if you are trying to sell the wine. One of the things which wines need to have is a name that is at least recognisable, and a grape that is likewise, at least familiar, now, who has heard of the Feteasca Regala?  But here is a very good dryish wine, partly aged on American Oak for £7:00 per bottle   (

Now to the UK, the Dart Valley and off dry with loads of fruit. - very impressive.  £11.00 from

India, too hot to grow grapes for wine making, well yes but only too hot at low levels, up in the hills it's fine and this wine was a real surprise, and lets be honest, when does M&S disappoint?  They sell this good wine bursting with mango, and gooseberry and made from Sauvignon Blanc.   £8:00   M&S

Wines tasted and compared, judged with and without foods, and my oh my, what a difference salt or sugar can make, how the tannins fade with fatty sausage, how the white wines make soft cheeses sing and make hard cheese and the wine become tasteless.   This last point quite amazing.

We also discover how good or not so good we are at smelling and defining what we are smelling. It seems that about 1 in 7 or 8 can identify a smell, Caramel and for most lemon was easy but then of the remainder of the smell tests most of us were without a clue, again something of a shock. This leading us to conclude we all live in our own world or bubble when it comes to tasting, so if it works for you, that's fine.  

We had two quick quizes, trivia on wine, congrats to Dan and Louise:

The semi final.

After a number of impressive whites it was now into the world of tannins, Uruguay, Macedonia, Mexico, Bolivia.  All very good wines, and more that  that, intersting wines, and what a great thing to offer up, blind with friends over food?

The Bernard Magrez Elegancia, sadly not longer available in the UK just now.

A Mexican Malbec, vibrant, would be good with red meats.

M&S £7:00

Bolivia, really? Oh yes and very good indeed. Another M&S find at £11.00 

A very good red, loads of black fruits. 

Back to Europe for the wine from Macedonia, a robust merlot, but a well mannered wine. 

M&S £7:00

The meeting would not be complete without a 'stickie' and what to eat with the same. Surprise, surprise, would a blue cheese be good, or maybe high cocoa chocolate, not good but fantastic. Both food and wine made better. 

The hit of the sweetness and the depth of flavours, beautiful, and this from Portugal.  A Moscatel, Amazon.  £13.00 for 75c cl. 

Now a date for your diary, the next meeting will be a week later than normal, APRIL 7.  The wines of Portugal.