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

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Wall to wall quality from the Southern Hemisphere

Late September and the seasons are now obviously changing from the hot, hot summer to the mellow days of Autumn. Sunshine still but that nip in the air as soon as the sun starts to fall.  The September meeting is the last of the year's usual meetings of The Wine Club and what better way than to see and taste wines where for the Summer is about to start,  New Zealand.  Most are familiar with the wines of this country but then mostly that would be Sauvignon Blanc, so this evenings talk '...Anything but Sauvignon Blanc...' was always going one to be looked forward to.

As has become the norm with the Blog I would like start by thanking our speakers, the husband and wife team of Bob and Wendy.

This is not the first time they have spoken to us, on the last occasion the subject was the wines of Southern Spain. That was a great selection of wines that have become favourites in the Bob and Wendy household because of time spent in the country, so it was with the New Zealand wines, wines tasted and enjoyed while visiting South Island.

Bob and Wendy, many thanks, a great talk and great wines:

Before speaking of  the wines, just a note about the overall impression.  Its almost bound to be the case that some people don't care for certain grapes, the infamous ABC people (Anything But Chardonnay), those don't care for Syrah, far too peppery for the me thank you or even Rose´, not proper wines etc.  But here is the thing, all the NZ wines where, without  exception of first class quality.  So even those with aversions to wine types were happy.

One of the issues of buying the wines of such quality is getting hold of them. The supplies are small and the demand tight. So the wine talk's title  was not able to be adhered to, The first wine was a Sauvignon Blanc as the wine types wanted was so limited that the SB needed to be included.  What a good job that was.

I guess we all are aware that NZ Savvy Blanc is often very often available with a high citrus level, fine in the summer in the sun but this grape can be used to produce much more amenable wines with great depth of flavour and with good length without the need wind up the acidity levels.

The first wine of the evening then was the Sauvignon Blanc 2016 from Nelson and available from Laithwaites at £15.99

Then followed the Bete Noire of grape types Chardonnay, oh yes this was lovely classic Chardonnay  taste, nose and length good.  A very impressive wine for the Chardonnay lover or not!

Hunters vineyard from Marlborough at £17.99 at Laithwaites

A surprising wine as this us made from Pinot Gris grape. Bob was able to tell us that this grape is the same as Pinot Grigio but that the terroir is the thing that makes the difference. You may be thinking that is just a load of nonsense, no such thing  anyway as terroir, well one only has to taste the Sauvignon Blanc from the New Zealand vineyards with high acidity levels compared  with a Loire wine made with  the same grape to know that terroir is alive and well and making its presence felt.

So of this wine, yes a lighter wine but very lovely and a pleasant and high quality wine to enjoy with friends as an apero perhaps. That is if you can find it.

Little Angel Pinot Gris 2016
at Hard To Find Wines.

And a great label!

So much for the wine wines and now a Rose´, always a little contentious, as many feel these wines lacks the body of a red and and is too bland for a white. Well, whatever, as they say this was not bland and had depth, maybe a little on the sweet side but all in all a very good Rose´.

Allan Scott Family Winemakers. Marlborough 2106 at £11.99 form Dylans Wine Merchants

If any red wine is a signature wine from New Zealand it has become that of Pinot Noir, given the very high price of Burgandy Pinot this wine is the one that bears comparison. A very good Pinot indeed. Soft, subtle, great length and all the good qualities that this grape can bring to the taste.  To have with suitable food this wine would be a winner for sure.

Walpara Hills Piont Noir 2016
Central Otago and available from The mInistry of Wines, @ £11.99.

And now, sadly the last wine, The La Starda Syrah, not Shiraz you may say, well there we are, all down to the Terroir it seems, and this was not too peppery, in fact a very well behaved wine with strength yes but not overwhelming.

Great wines, great quiz, did I mention the quiz, no I didn't well a very good quiz that kept us all on our toes.

A very good evening

Date of next meeting

November 30th. Further details in your inbox shortly.


Saturday, 28 July 2018

Flying Over Burgundy

The July meeting of the Wine Club, gave us a hot night, an eclipse of the moon and a flight over some of the world's most famous wine country, Burgundy.

The Club owes a very large debt of gratitude to our guest speaker, the recently retired Wine Steward of St. John's College, Ian Sobey.

Ian has a love of wine, a love of French wine and a love of the wines of Burgundy.  As Wine Steward he was for many years the man responsible for the purchase of the many wines needed by the college to support it's various functions and hospitality needs.

Ian was went on to describe to us the history of wine and its place within the culture of hospitality at the College both today and in the past. He introduced us to the cellars, the old cellar dating back to the mid to late 1400's and the new cellar a mere 500 years old.

Ian, a mathematician, also shared with us the relative costs of of Burgundy wines over the years.

Our tour of Burgundy though was not just via the wonderful wines that he was able to introduce  but also a virtual arial  tour by courtesy of Google Maps and some great use of that technology.  This was great help in seeing how the vineyards are made up, or one should say, split up given the effects of land passing through families on death.

We saw also also the ability to drop down and look at the the villages and towns 'up close and personal' allowing Ian to share with us some of the great restaurants discovered over many years of visiting the area.

Ian, many thanks, it was a great evening and superb to understand a little more of both the role of wine steward and the wines of the region.

The Wines

We enjoyed two White Burgundy wines:

The first of the two Chardonnay wines was the St Romain Blanc, 2013. Now we know that Chardonnay has a reputation that many will not touch a wine made with the grape. That dislike is present in some of members but last night even the most strident ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) member was a little seduced by the soft and subtle flavours of these wines.  This was classic Chardonnay but with crispness and good length.

The second Chardonnay was still an obvious Chardonnay but now different,  a little more robust, with more fruit and softness. 

The red wines, all Pinot Noir.  The  grape that  is the most demanding of grapes to produce exceptional wine.  

All were subtle, with great length and begged to be drunk with suitable respect with good food and ideally with friends that appreciate the subtle flavours. 

The wines came in age order, the young, well hardly young when bottled 12 years ago, then the Volnay a 2001, followed by the Nuits St George Aux St Julien from 2000

The most obvious physical difference was the colour, we were told a function of time. The older wines showing a darker, maroon colour, one that one could not see through unlike the youngster where the typical Pinot soft colour was an immediate give away to the grape type. The flavours more pronounced with more tannin in evidence in the oder wines but also great length and flavour.  Oh yes a very good night!

The wines concluded with a non Burgundy sweet wine, a 2003, a Bordeaux in this case and from the Ch Brouset (2003).  To think that some people dislike sweet wine, how can that be, this was just gorgeous.

The, last wine served with white chocolate and dark chocolate.  The perfect end the to the perfect evening

Date of next meeting

September 29th.  South Island wines but no Savvy Blanc!

For those that want more info re the Oxford Wine Festival
go here

Saturday, 26 May 2018

No, it can't be....

No, it can't be, I don't like Syrah...

Summer is almost upon us, and the Wine Club has it's May meeting.    This was a meeting that surprised, pleased and made members reconsider, but how so?

You could say, and you'd be right to say it that is not that easy to be original on how to offer wines to the Wine Club in a new and though provoking way, well our speakers did that in spades.

Our speakers, John and Louise gave a great presentation, history of the areas where each wines had been made, the countries both 'Old World and New World with the question, quite simple really, what are the grapes?  All very simple and to an extent you may think obvious but no one was able to get close to the the correct answers.

Our collective hats got off to Louise and John, a brilliant job well done.

So the wines:

Here they are

and yes, the eagle eyed will see that they are all the same, or rather all the reds are Syrah/Shirraz and the whites, including a sticky are Sauvignon Blanc.

The aim of the evening was to answer the question, what grape variety is in this bottle in the wines we were tasting.  Only one person thought the first three wines, the whites, were all Savy Blanc, I guess that tells us something about the how the mind works - to assume that we would be drinking a variety of grape types and not just one grape.  What it also tells us is that the French idea of Terroir is alive well and can be seen very well with an test of this nature.

What of the wines, the whites were good, all good, what a kind grape it is.  (I can now say this given I now know what is in the bottle!). A surprise thought was the fact that it is more than possible to make a sweet wine from the grape. For many that last wine was both the most interesting but also the best, especially so when taken with a slice of Lemon Drizzle cake, yes it's a tough life.

The red were all good but for this taster at least, the pepper overtones on one or two two the wines confirmed the reason for not caring for Syrah, but others were just sensational. so the prejudice is totally unfounded.  The lesson of the night.

The details, as drunk:

All wines bought from The Oxford Wine Company

White and Sauvignon Blanc

1. Loire Valley. Domaine du Haute Perron /2106 @10.99. 12.5%
2  Marlborough Sound.  Mortoin Estate 2017 @ £9.69.  12.00%
3 South Africa, Franschhooek Frenschoek Cellr 2017 @ £8.75. 13.5%

Red and Syrah/Shiraz
4 Languedoc - Roussillon. Domain de lea Baume. 2016 @£ 10.99 14%
5 Western Cape.  Stellar Winery 2016 @ £8.99 13%
6 Barossa valley Magpie Estate. 2105 @£13.75. 14%

7 Germany Pfalz  Oliver Zetter 2015 @£15.95 (50cl) 7.5%

Date of next meeting
July 27th

Sunday, 8 April 2018

European magic....

Yes, once again the Wine Club is taken to parts of the world where  wines are made and enjoyed but places unknown to us.  For this we are indebted to David Lloyd who once again gave a great talk and presentation. David has spoken to the Club three times now and each time the membership remembers his talk as being super good.  So it was last night when David took us into that area of Europe that we once knew as Eastern Europe.  Moldovia, Slovakia, Transalvania.  Not just the East of Europe but also Italy and the closest vineyard to our village here in Oxfordshire.

Many thanks David....

the consummate professional.

European magic

We talked about the magic of Europe's vintage - the oldest wine
evidence found so far is 8,000 years old from Georgia, Europe. Then we
talked about the magic of design, creativity and history.
Wine 1: Ryzink Rynsky (meaning Rhine Riesling) from winery at Krasna
Hora (this means beautiful mountain). The winery is on the slopes of
the old Poddvorov mountains in Czech Republic near Slovakian border.
Vineyard was originally founded in 13th C by Cistercian monks using
French grapes. Cost £13.50 a bottle (2015), available in UK from
I chose a Czech wine to start given the number of milestones for the
Czech Republic in 2018, including 25 years since CR was founded
following the Velvet Divorce from Slovakia 1993, and 2018 is the
creation 100 years ago of an independent Czechoslavak nation.
Wine 2: 'Oxford Dry' from Oxford's nearest vineyard, Bothy Vineyard,
in Frilford Heath, which started in 1978 with German vines. Now it is
run by husband and wife team Richard and Sian Liwicki. Oxford Dry is a
crisp aromatic white, cost £9 from the vineyard and Appleton Stores.
Sculptures in the Vineyard will be held at the winery 8-23 September
We chose Oxford to talking about the importance of serving good wine.
Oxford's St Scholastica Day Riots in 1354 over poor wine being served
led to rioting for three days, with some historical accounts saying up
to 93 people were killed over this.
Wines 3 and Wine 4:
From Cricova Wine Caves in the Republic of Moldova. Over one million
bottles are stored here at any one time, in around 120 kms of caves.
8m bottles produced each year. Here, you not only see the amazing
quarried underground streets, but this is also home to the National
Collection, a museum of wine which houses the wines that Goering
amassed during WW2. A fascinating museum, with a signed note and photo
from Yuri Gagarin who comments it was harder to leave Cricova wine
caves than to leave space.
We tried a 2016 Feteasca Alba, white 12%, and a 14% red - Feteasca
Neagra. These wines are not normally available in the UK, but a huge
recommendation to go visit the caves.
Wine 5 - Bats Blood from the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains in
Romania. These mountains sit amidst Bran Castle, better known as
Dracula's Castle in Transylvania. Transylvania joined Romania exactly
100 years ago, and this Merlot wine (13.5%) is available from at £10.95 a bottle. Beautifully presented, you can buy
this in a lovely display box - not the usual shape but actually in a
coffin - perfect for the dark magic of Europe! The wine is actually
produced by Hartley Smithers, Chief winemaker for Casella in
Australia, who spends part of his time in Romania.
Wine 6 at £12.99 a bottle is the Pipoli Anglianico Del Vulture, a
superb red with a distinctive taste produced from vineyards on the
slopes of Vesuvius, available from Eynsham Wine Celllars. The
Unexpected flavour complemented the book Unexpected Tales produced by
11 authors of OX29. Those at the wine club were encouraged to consider
writing for the 2018 Anthology of Short Stories, with a deadline of
30th June. All profits from the book go to Helen and Douglas House,
and more details are available from the Short Stories are fun website

During the break between the reds and whites we had a fun but demanding quiz hosted by Martin Marais, as always the preparation for such things looks to be easy but we know that they take time and effort to work well and this worked very well. 

The reds were all very good, perhaps because of the contrast with the whites but all the wines went down very well, a straw poll of the wines listed the reds as being favourite. The Merlot and Syrah being particularly well received.

So David, I think you can look back on the night as being a great success, after the wines the members just wanted to sit and chat about the wines and the cheeses, all of which were bought from our local Waitrose. The selection of cheeses that have are always impressive, the Austrian cream cheese was the favourite but also the French cheese made with additional cream - those pesky French they do know their cheese!

Date of next meeting.  May 25th.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

January, Italian wines, Toby Chiles, Seven Years

Christmas us now well and truly behind us, January is here and with it this year  some miserable weather.  It is said that mid-January is the worst time of the year for many, it's back to work, it's the Visa statement dropping with thud on the mat, it's dull days and grey skies.  So all the more pleasing to have a thriving Wine Club that have great speakers and lovely wine to look forward to.  Yes it's that time again -  the first meeting of The Wine Club.  This being the 7th year of the Wine Club operating. by now we are a cohesive group, we enjoy wines of course but we also enjoy each other's company, so no talk of credit cards or bad weather.

At the first meeting of 2018 we were all happy to hear, again, another impressive and thoughtful presentation from Toby Chiles.  Wine expert for sure, but also one with the ability to communicate to all, no matter how sophisticated or otherwise their knowledge of wines may be.

For this January meeting the subject was of Italian wines, both the 'old school' but also of the new kids on the block from the Italian wine industry.

We all love Italy, its food is just about the most popular of food types, we have taken to heart dishes like Mac-Cheese and Spag Bol although the Italians don't have either dish in the national repertoire.

All of our wines, and we had a dozen tastings, were well received, inevitably some preferred ones over others, but very little, noises of disapproval.  Just a maybe, not too sure, for the cocktail starter, a Spritz Apero, this is the mixer drink, Apero, that has rocketed in sales over the last two years and loved by many, but also still unknown by many, so maybe the mix of a sweet/bitter plus orange drink mixed with Prosecco was not to everyones immediate liking.  Not of the writer of this Blog though, a drink that will always remind me of the bars of Italy and the pleasures of sharing food and wine with friends after a quick Apero.

Toby, if you get to read this consider yourself booked for next January. The 25th please!

The wines were a mix of old and new, many available via Toby and his company, if you want to buy any of 'his' wines drop me and email and I will sort.

Toby, accompanied the wines with Italian staples, Parmesan, Olives and cured sausage.

I managed to get a few shots of members relaxing....

Sadly I seemed to have fallen into the trap of only photographing men, fear not ladies next month I will address the gender bias!

The coming season was announced, lots of good talks coming our way with the next being on April 6, David Lloyd will present on East European wines, more detail to follow on this.   Also more information will be with you shortly about the proposed visit to France and the Champagne House. as well as a joint venture with our local WI.

2018 looks like being a great year for the Wine Club, keep an eye on your email with more info to follow.