January 2018 Newsletter

Forthcoming Events                 

  • 28th February tasting – my turn! This is a tasting I had in mind some while ago – “Australia – reds with bottle age and classy whites” People rarely get the chance to try these magnificent wines at their peak, I love to share them – and we’ll have some delicious whites to balance our palates! If you bring nibbles, I would suggest charcuterie rather than cheese
  • 28th March tasting – something a little different, my colleague Richard Bost AWE is showing “The Exciting Wines of Romania”. Richard is an expert in wines from the Eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean and he says that exciting things are going on there, so this should be a very interesting journey.
  • 25th April tasting continuing the Eastern Mediterranean theme, we’re in for a real treat from Christos Ioannou AWE who is an expert on his country’s unique wines. His title is Forget Retsina – lovely wines from Greece’s own grapes” so forget any past holiday experiences with local jug wines! This promises to be an eye-opener!
  • 23rd May tasting – to be confirmed
  • 27th June tasting – BBQ and eclectic wines at Ford Cottage – details later

News and Reviews

I’ve been a bit slow with the Newsletter, the last one was way back at the end of July so quite a lot to catch up on……….

In August, we invited Roger Marchbank, a pioneering English winemaker to get us right up to date with all that is going on in the English Wine scene. What a good job Roger did! We were treated to a real insight into the ups and downs of making wine this far north in Europe, starting with his own wine grown at Beaulieu and vinified and bottled at Setley. We enjoyed a range of English still whites and one or two reds (an encouraging “work in progress”, these) and finished with a truly stunning sweetie from, difficult to believe, the Nottinghmshire/Leicestershire border! This wine, the North Star, from partially botrytised Madeleine Angevine grapes, is made by freezing the ripe grapes and pressing the juice leaving most of the water behind as solid ice. This is the same technique used in Austria and German to make “icewine” although in England it’s not cold enough to do this “naturally”. The wine has an amazing nose of ripe pineapples and a gorgeous complex palate and, at £25 per 500cl bottle is very competitive with continental or Canadian icewine.  I ended up sourcing a lot of bottles for our members!

In September we were pleased to invite Rob Caswell from the Solent Cellar in Lymington who, fortunately for us, went beyond the original brief of Chile and gave us a very interesting run around several of their South American wines. After a very pleasant Brazilian sparkler, we tried Argentina’s signature white grape, Torrontes, and then a variety of reds. The most surprising wine for me was a very classy and smooth Tannat from Uruguay, so unlike the often-inaccessible European take on this tannic grape. Rob offered a generous discount on his selection of wines which was gratefully taken up by some of us!

Next in line, in October, was Caroline Boswell-Davis who gave us a very informative tour of Portugese wines and winemaking. Obviously, Port is familiar to us all. but the grapes that are used for Port (and Portugal has many grape varities of its own) can make wonderful dry wines as well, especially the Touriga family. Perhaps the big surprise of the night was the Muscat sweetie that we finished on – following on from the stunning English North Star we tasted in August, the Moscatel de Setubal at around £9/bottle was almost too good to be true – liquid clementines came to mind – quite a lot was ordered subsequently!

Our November tasting, rounding off the external presentations for the year, was in my mind a real peak to finish on. Brian Davis brought along a splendid selection of NZ wines which he chose to show how well the Kiwis can do OTHER than Sauvignon Blanc.  We ranged across Riesling (pleasingly popular on the night), Pinot Gris, Chardonnay (bit of a disappointment), Syrah and, of course, four of their wonderful Pinot Noirs. I chucked in a 2010 PN to compare with Brian’s 2012 offering from the same Calvert vineyard and I think mine just shaded his – both gorgeous wines in that elegant fruity style that marks out their difference to Burgundian PNs. For an area where wines are never going to be cheap, it was a privilege to get this insight from Brian, and a good night had by all.

As last year, we rounded off our first full year with a Christmas get-together rather than a tasting in December. This year we held this in the St Saviour’s Hall, a very comfortable venue. Everyone brought along food and nibbles with some interesting bottles circulating to break the ice, then we had a fun Food and Drink Quiz whilst the brains were still working. Everyone seemed to enjoy the evening so we will plan to do this again next Christmas.

In January we started the New Year with a visit from Nina Cerullo AWE who presented a selection of “The Wines from the Northern Rhone” home of the famous Hill of Hermitage and magnificent wines from Syrah, Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier grapes. What a superb tasting this was, Nina was a very engaging speaker and she really teased us to think more about how to taste and what to look for in a wine. Her insights into the history and geography/geology of the relatively small Northern Rhone and her tips about how to get quality wines at approachable prices made for an excellent evening. To cap it, this was our largest attendance to date, with 36 members and guests! Thanks, Nina.

Other news

We have held our regular Committee meetings though the latter half of the year. A very sad piece of news was the passing of David Larder, one of our earliest members; we sent the Club’s condolences to David’s family as you would have wished. November saw our inaugural AGM, which after a lot of preparation work, especially from Tony, passed off quickly and smoothly, the Officers and Committee being returned without change (suppose we must be doing something right!). Importantly, we adopted the Constitution that Sally and David worked so hard on without any modification, so we are pleased that the Club is now on a properly established footing, especially taking into account the sums of money we now dealing with. Sally, our Treasurer, reported a very good financial turn-out, at least in part due to the generosity of Max Jewell (Priory Wines) and Rob Caswell (Solent Cellar), both of whom gave us a much reduced rate – thanks, guys. So, we start 2018 in good shape and will be looking to use our funds for more interesting and ambitious tastings and events though the coming year. In particular, it looks as though a longer coach trip to one of the large wineries (Denbies at Dorking, Chapel Down in Kent, Bolney in Sussex) is a popular proposal and once the weather improves we’ll look at this.

Future tastings

As you can see from the Diary at the head of this newsletter, we have been busy sorting out some exciting tasting sessions for the first half of 2018.  We’ll be looking at getting social events going as well so watch this space and the Website for details.


That’s it for now, folks.  John