Saturday, 23 November 2019

Not so much a Blog.....

....more a set of pictures

November 22nd, and Christmas starts here. At the end of the Wine Club's Season we have what could call a social evening. A pot luck supper, quizzes, games and the odd  poem.  It also marks the first of the Christmas get togethers. Last night we enjoyed such an evening a large turn out for the Club and what did we enjoy on the wine front?

We had three wines.:

Al available locally and all well received.

The crement came from Aldi at a little over £8.00 a bottle. some say a complete snip. Light and just the right side of acid.  

With our foods, a choice of the above Viognier, a wine that I was advised tastes different from each region. Well this is produced in the very South of France, its so hot in that part of the world that the harvest, the vendage, is completed at night. A Waitrose wine at around £9.00 per bottle.

This accompanied by a great red, the soft and smooth but with a very good character - the Cairanne.

 Another Waitrose win at the £12.00 ish price.  Very well received indeed, and often on offer via the store.

My thanks go to the makers of really fine foods, a magnificent 'spread', both savoury and sweet. 

A huge thanks to all concerned.  

Now for the pictures:

A massive thank you to Martin, who would have thought you could have so much fun with Scrabble tiles?  A really good choice of games and quiz's and well managed by you as quiz master.

An almost spontaneous reading of a very good wine based poem.  Many thanks Hugh.

And then there were the members, sadly not everyone photographed but here a few:

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Sounds like Germany but it's quite definitely France

The Wines of Alsace

Now it's September, the Summer is a memory and we are officially in the Autumn season, the season of mellowness and so it was with the selection of wines for our September meeting of the Wine Club. 

We were to taste the wines of the Alsace  region of France.  

We were fortunate to have the experience and knowledge of the Ian Sobey to give us an, almost literally, a birds eye view to the area and of the wines of this little known wine region of France.

Ian many thanks, once again you were able to both tell and us show the region aided by the brilliant Google Maps app, allowing us to fly over the region and to drop down and virtually visit the streets, towns and vineyards of the areas we were to taste on our visit to the AOC.

The evening began with our usual welcome wine, but here we had luck on our side as one of the Wine Club organisers, Chris,  had just returned form the region with wine for the opening of the evening, and so we were able to enjoy a cool glass of Slivaner to start the evening. 

Interesting the cat from the pub also came along to the meeting, he felt the sweeter wines we're to his taste!

Ian flew us over the area and down into the town and vineyards with Google earth, this was a great way to get a feel of the area and the region.  It seems that the Alsace AOC is very strict on what grapes can by put into wine bottles.  Blends are big no-no in the ares with the area being dominated by the production of white wines and off dry white wines.  

Historically the region has been at the centre of a number of political and military conflicts resulting an an area that is France but feels like Germany in many ways. The German language is spoken in part and the town names and looks reflect the strong German influence.   When looking at the wines the grape varieties are also heavily influenced by Germans varieties, Riesling and Gurwurtztraminer being two of the key varieties grown in the area. 

The wines are dominated by white wine, 90% of production is white wine with 10% given over to Pinot Noir

The whites are dominated by floral and peachy aromas and can pair well with chicken, guinea fowl and quail.  The wines, although off dry do still retain acidity to balanced by the sugars.  No use of oak leaves a smooth and a subtle wine. 

In addition the whites, the Pinot Gris, Guwurtztraminer, and Riesling we also tasted two ofthe Pinot Noir wines. These are produced in small amounts and do fetch a premium price tag. 

The first was a very soft and gentle Pinot but the second more robust and had more depth.  

The other type of production of the area is of Crement, to many this is another name for the wine that comes from the Reims area of France but cannot be called Champagne. Made in the same way but with differing grapes, the crement was a great start to the evening and a very good wine.

And finaly a  thank you to Phil for thinking of the Wine Club in asking our speaker to come along and share his enthusiasm and knowledge with us.

The cheeses for he evening were a miix ou UK, Spanish and Awiss cheeses.

The UK ones were the Cornish Brie (Waitrose)
Yorkshire Blue (Waitrose)
Red Fox - Red Leicester (Aldi)

Spanish Manchego (Aldi)

Swiss Kaltbach (Waitrose)

Welsh goat (Aldi)

Date of next meeting and note change of date:

November 22nd.

Monday, 5 August 2019

Martin goes to Japan

July and the day the heat wave breaks, well good because on the evening we have some travelling to do.

Martin, something of a veteran speaker to the Wine Club,  takes us to countries not normally associated with wine and wine production, Japan, Israel, Uruguay, The Lebanon, India and, would you believe, Thailand.    It's fair to say that the great wine producing countries and areas of the world need not be too worried about the amount or competition from the wines from these wines but they were more than just drinkable, they were interesting, different and in one or two cases, exceptional.  They were always surprising, but in a good way

Martin, a very willing speaker and on this occasion a willing model.

A very good talk Martin, a surprising one and one that gave us all the chance to taste and assess the wines from countries we almost certainly would not have been able to have done without your diligent search and sourcing of these surprising wines.  Many thanks.

The first wine, one of two white wines, was from Japan.   Not a country known for wine, A country that shared the problem of all the countries wines we tried, a climate that is not best suited to the growing of grapes. So a challenge but one that was accepted and resulted in a wine that's suitable as an aperitif, not a lot of body or style, but very pleasant as pre dinner drink with friends prior to eating fish or a light salad perhaps. In which case this wine could carry through the meal.  It would certainly lead to the discussion of the wine.  It would be almost certain that no one had tasted Japanese wines before. It was challenge to obtain in the UK and this had to be bought on line from a specialist retailer.

The wine is available from at £18.99

Wine  Number 2, a Chenin Blanc from India.

Chenin Blanc the grape most associated with South Africa, but here on very good form from the sub continent. After the rather bland first wine this was very good, A crisper offering and a very satisfactory wine, all the more so when you start to think where the wine is form, the country of tigers and monsoon!

Grape: Chenin Blanc
Year: 2017
Estate: Sula Vineyards (founded 1999)
Region: Nashik Valley
ALC: 12.0%
Price: £10.99

Before our break and the chance to review the cheeses we try our first red, a rather soft wine from Thailand. Here the problem is not so much the growing of grapes but rather stopping of the vines from producing grapes continually, without the seasons the vines will keep on growing grapes twice a year, and not very good grapes at that. The wine makers have to make the vines think it has been winter by stripping leaves and in so doing starting the fruiting cycle at a time that will give just  one crop a year, this process seems to does make for a soft and very pleasant wine to drink.

Grape: Shiraz blend
Year: 2013
Estate: Monsoon Valley (founded 2003)
Region: Hua Hin
ALC: 12.0%
Price: £9.99

The second of the red wines was, for many the best wine of the evening, possibly because the previous wines were soft and a little neutral on taste but this wine, a rather gusty red was very well liked. Accompanied by the salty Roquefort cheese this was winner.

Something of a surprise was that Israel has been making wines since 1882, the vines introduced by the Rothschild family. A very good and very enjoyable red, and from the Judean Hills of Isreal.

Grape: Argaman
Year: 2017
Estate: Segal Winery (founded 1954)
Region: Judean Foothills
ALC: 12.5%
Price: £13.49
Retailer: Eynsham Cellars

One of the countries to border Israel is the Lebanon, and it was the Lebanon that gave is our next wine, another red but bolder now.  From the Bekaa Vally, of course it is and why not, this was a gutsy wine, for some a little too much maybe but with a the mature cheddar, a grade 5 on the cheese Richter scale, the cheese complemented the wine well and made for a good team.  The cheese was the extra mature cheddar.

Grape: Blend (Cabernet Sauvignon 40%, Syrah 40%, Cinsault 15%, Carignan 5%)
Year: 2015
Estate: Domaine des Tourelles(founded 1868)
Region: Bekaa valley
ALC: 14.5%
Price: £12.99
Retailer: Eynsham Cellars

Our final wine of the evening was one that was made from the grape noted for its exceptional levels of tannin, so we knew that this was going to be a wine that is astringent and it was but  one that would age well in the bottle. Some said this is one to lay down for a few years and would make great wine.The wine comes from Uruguay, a formidable grape and wine, bring out the boar stew!

Grape: Argaman
Year: 2017
Estate: Segal Winery (founded 1954)
Region: Judean Foothills
ALC: 12.5%
Price: £13.49
Retailer: Eynsham Cellars

The cheeses of night were:

1 Ricotta 
2 Gruyere
3 Reblochon
4 Roquefort
5 Mature Cheddar
6 Stilton

The cheeses were bought from Aldi with the exception of nos. 2 and 3 they were from Waitrose.  All were thought to be of high quality.

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Wine Secrets and Grape Moments

Being a member of a Wine Club will mean a thirst, not just for wine but also  a thirst for knowlage and information on the world of wine.  For the presentation given at our last meeting this was provided in spades. Not just information but information that's presented with a skill and panache.  Fo this we need to thank David Lloyd, a speaker who very clearly  researches thoroughly and is able to present complex and though provoking information in a way that allows us all to enjoy and appreciate.    Lat Friday we heard not just of wine but some too the philosophical aspects of wine making and enjoying. 

Many thanks David.

David began with a look at Food and Wine’s top ten most unusual wines, of which David promised attendees would try one of them.
These included everything from snake bile wine and lizard wine to birch sap and rose petal wine. Even seagull wine and pumpkin wine were on the list, but in the end we tasted Retsina, pine resin originally used by the Greeks to seal their wine vessels – the pine then infusing the wine.

Wine 1: Kourtaki Retsina dry white from Greece, a well-established brand since 1895. Grape variety: Savatiano, 11.5%. £5.75 From Sainsbury’s.

As for the seagull wine (not tried!), David read Suzanne Donahue’s tasting notes: “If you opened up a Toyota’s carburetor and drank the leftover fluid from inside, that would be pretty close. It goes down hard and settles in even worse. But I must say it sure gets people inebriated in a hurry. And the next day’s hangover is nothing short of spectacular. You’ll feel like you’ve been repeatedly beaten over the head by a giant…well, seagull.”

The second wine was called Fruit Orchestra, a blend of Chenin Blanc and Viognier, from the Western Cape of South Africa. Available from the Coop at £6.

This wine was selected following the story of the fascinating research by Adrian North from Heriot Watt University whose research showed that the type of music that plays in a room can actually alter the taste of a wine to a considerable extent. So the next time you visit a restaurant and order a drink, pay close attention to the background music - it might totally change whatever is in your glass.

The research is interesting and something of a taster for other research information that told more of influences on the tasting of wines. this wine was well received and good wine and from our local coop as well. 

We looked at philosophy and wine, with recommendations to read ‘The philosophy of wine:  A case for truth, beauty and intoxication, by Cain Todd; ‘I Drink Therefore I Am: A Philosopher's Guide to Wine’ by Roger Scrutton and ‘Questions of Taste – The Philosophy of Wine’ by Barry Smith.

This session and session four looked at whether the judgements of 'experts' have any objective validity? Is a great wine a work of art? Can a wine be feminine, profound and cheeky? Questions like these will have been entertained by anyone who has ever puzzled over the tasting notes of a wine writer, or been baffled by the response of a sommelier to an innocent question. 

These sessions also looked at the mischievous research of Frederic Brochet, of the University of Bordeaux, he conducted two separate and very mischievous experiments. In the first test, Brochet invited 57 wine experts and asked them to give their impressions of what looked like two glasses of red and white wine. The wines were actually the same white wine, one of which had been tinted red with food colouring. But that didn’t stop the experts from describing the “red” wine in language typically used to describe red wines. One expert praised its “jamminess,” while another enjoyed its “crushed red fruit.” Not a single one noticed it was actually a white wine. 

In recognition of this, we tasted a white Pinot Noir, mixed with pinot Grigio, from Italy, available from the Oxford Wine Company at almost £14 a bottle.

For many the best wine of the evening, not confusion on costs here, the price would seem to be well represented in the wine, a very enjoyable white wine made with a grape  normally associated with quality reds.

The second test Brochet conducted was even more damning. He took a middling Bordeaux and served it in two different bottles. One bottle was a fancy grand-cru. The other bottle was an ordinary vin du table.  Despite the fact that they were actually being served the exact same wine, the experts gave the differently labelled bottles nearly opposite ratings. The grand cru was “agreeable, woody, complex, balanced and rounded,” while the vin du table was “weak, short, light, flat and faulty”.
Forty experts said the wine with the fancy label was worth drinking, while only 12 said the cheap wine was. 
David then looked at a study by Antonia Mantonakis, a wine researcher from Ontario’s Brock University. This showed that people who know more about wine were more likely to report that difficult-to-pronounce wines were worth more money. 

As a result, we tasted a £14 Bordeaux with a very long name – a Chateau Les Tourelles Du Barrail, 13%, available from Eynsham Wine Cellars, at almost £14.  this was a very enjoyable Bordeaux, having heard David's talk I hesitate to say this but yes a great example.

We also looked at wine and health with some encouraging findings that a glass of red really is good for the over forties.
In celebration of this, we tasted Apothic Inferno – an apothecary being a medieval pharmacy. It is a Californian wine, aged in whisky barrels for 60 days, thus weighing in at 16%. Available from Sainsbury’s at £13.50 a bottle.

We finally looked at wine and culture, looking at the book by Mark Forsyth ‘A short history of drunkenness. Many remarkable facts over the centuries on how alcohol impacts people as a society.
Since the Greeks believed ‘If you can drink a lot and still behave, then you are an ideal man with great virtue of self control,’ we finished on another Greek wine, a sweet one served with chocolate brownies. This Mavrodaphne of Patras Cameo is aged in oak barrels and is 15%. Shop around – prices seem to vary, as does availability.

The conclusion came in two quotes
  • Louis Pasteur defined the 1st principles of modern winemaking when he says: "A bottle of wine contains more philosophy than all the books in the world" 
  • “The simplest definition of a great bottle of wine is when you feel sad because the bottle is empty.” 
Our last wine was  in the Grape Surprises section, after a white Pinot Noir the a sweet red served with brownies. A good end to a good selection of wines and very good talk.

Many thanks David


I was about to post the blog and the door is knocked and my neighbour is standing on the doorstep clutching the attached:

Yes the Chinese snake wine, in person as it were!

Many thanks Dennis.