March 18th 2021 – Sainsbury’s Italian Wine & Food Pairing

We are pleased to be able to share details of our next Virtual Wine Tasting, which will take place on Thursday 18th March at 7pm via Zoom. This month we taste Italian Wines from Sainsbury’s, including some of their Taste the Difference wines, which are well rated in the Wine World.

We searched their range of 42 Italian wines and have condensed the list into 6 wines which we feel will give you a good insight to the many, many wines of Italy.

As always you don’t need to buy all the wines, we have chosen 4 “core” wines, 2 white and 2 red, plus a couple of optional wines as a “welcome wine” and a “sticky” for dessert.

The “core” wines cost £38.50 and the “optional” wines another £18.50. If you have wines in your own collection that you feel will be suitable alternatives, please feel free to use them … but be prepared to tell us at The Tasting what they are and how well they filled the role!

As usual we will start the evening with an optional “fizz” (or you could try Aperitivo) and end the evening with a “sticky”, also optional.

Our final red is made from specially processed grapes hence it’s a little more expensive. However we feel you will appreciate the difference and any leftovers will complement a future meal.

Below you will find a list of the 6 wines and suggested food pairings to help you cater for the evening.

How to Register

There is no charge to join the tastings whilst we are buying our own wines and using Zoom for virtual tastings. To join in simply:

  1. Reply to the invitation email if you are a member of WAS so that you receive the zoom details nearer the time
  2. Either buy the wines online, or pop into store and grab the ones you want
  3. Decide what food or nibbles you want to try with your wines (if any) and purchase or prepare in advance of the tasting
  4. Click on the Zoom link 10 minutes before the start time to ensure we are all online in time for our 7pm start (you will get this a few days beforehand)
  5. Enjoy!

We look forward to seeing you there.

Cheers

The WAS Committee

Feb 2021 – Marks & Sparks New World Classics

This month we tasted wines from Marks and Spencer’s new Classics range – their New World Mixed Case Classics.

The new M&S Classics range are hand-picked wines from the key wine making regions of the world and there are lots to choose from. Read more about them all here. For our tasting focussed on those from the New World! The wines were presented by the committee member, whose tasting notes are below:

The Wines

  1. Welcome fizz Millesimato Prosecco Rosé – £8. This pale pink rosé prosecco displayed citrus on the nose with flavours of strawberries, raspberries and passionfruit on the palette. With a fairly short finish, it goes well with salads, seafood, soft fruits and canapés.
  2. No. 39 NZ Sauvignon Blanc – £8. This wine is part of the 86% of Sauvignon grapes in the Marlborough district in the north east of the south island, where the dry, sunnny and cool climate produces quality wines through a long growing season. This pale, clear and clean coloured wine tasted of lemons, grass and elderflower with a long finish and would go well with chicken and salads.
  3. No. 5 Workhorse Chenin, South Africa – £8. 13% ABV. Made from a blend of Chenin Blanc from Stellenbosch. Pale straw colour with pear and melon on the nose. A dry white wine, with balanced acidity, tasting of yellow apple, pear and subtle oak influence lending hints of buttered popcorn. Great value Chenin.
  4. No. 25 California Chardonnay – £8. This unoaked Chardonnay, from the Sacramento Delta is smooth and boasts flavours of citrus, mango and pineapple,which were too subtle for most of us! This wine from one the largest US producers benefits from the warm days and cool nights to develop the flavour. Mixed reviews on the evening.
  5. No. 24 California Zinfandel – £8. You either like Zinfandel reds or you don’t; they’re a bit like Marmite in that respect. Closely related to the Primitivo grape found in Italy and the Dalmatian Coast, this “Zin” from California is a bold wine, aromatic, oaky and with flavours of blackberries and blackcurrants. Slightly on the sweet side for some palates but very smooth and very easy to drink. It does seem to work best with food; members enjoying it equally with a Valentine’s Day steak and with spicy Asian dishes. Possibly worth spending £2-3 more to get a more definitive example of how stunning this grape can be.
  6. No. 29 Argentinian Malbec – £8. This Malbec is from the Mendoza Region and is 14% ABV. Aged in oak barrels for 12 months it has a smooth full body red, with a red/black berry and possibly a hint of mint flavour. Very nice wine to accompany red meat, or sip in front of a coal fire in the winter months Suggestion to serve slightly below room temperature to get the best taste. Average rating at the wine tasting was 8/10!
  7. No. 28 Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon – £8. This wine, 14% ABV from the Maipo Valley in Chile, was made by Diego Covarrubias and is a good example of the grape. It was well received by most of the members but was felt to be still rather young. The fruity, heavily berried nose was supported by a good ruby colour and a good length finish.
  8. Dessert Hermits Hill Botrytis Semillion – £8. Today’s “sticky” is from the Riverina plains in New South Wales, where the climate is warm with a high humidity which, in autumn misty mornings favour the fungus Botrytis Cineria, the same grey fuzzy fungus that spoils strawberries in the UK. Botrytis – the Noble Rot – attacks the grapes on the vine and creates sugars, flavours and acids concentrated in the grape, while the fungus consumes their water. This wine has a brilliant pale gold colour and smells of spicy cinnamon, yellow peaches and nougat with just a hint of burnt sugar syrup (marmalade). In the mouth it was powerful and impossibly long with peaches and barley sugar flavours – all kept in check by deft acidity, with a lovely long finish. Would go well with sweet desserts and chocolate. This one got the thumbs up from all!

Jan 2021 – Waitrose Virtual Food & Wine Pairing

Our first tasting of 2021 revolved around a selection of Waitrose wines, cleverly paired with different foods. Delivered virtually on Zoom we also welcomed several new guests. Hope we see you all again soon.

Here are a few notes about the wines we tasted and even some recipes for you to download and print.

White Wines

  • Cuvée Pêcheur IGP South of France (£5.49). This bargain of a wine is blend of Ugni Blanc & Colombard grapes. Very refreshing, it is a dry and gently aromatic blend of local grapes from the Gascony region of the South of France. Easily accessible and well liked by Waitrose customers and WAS members alike.
  • Waitrose Loved & Found Arinto (£7.99). After the previous white, this was drier, more complex and elegant, but still very approachable. There was little support for Waitrose’s suggestion that it was like Sauvignon Blanc, though it has similar freshness and weight. From the Lisboa region of Portugal, this white got a big thumbs up particulary with the smoked salmon that most of us were nibbling on. A fuller write up and more details on the grape from Mark are available here.

Red Wines

  • Good Ordinary Claret (£5.89). The name doesn’t do this wine justice. A blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, traditional Bordeaux grapes, this lovely medium bodied red has nice soft tannins and dark fruit flavours, though we could not get the promised “bell pepper” (probably a good thing!). Easy to drink on it’s own but predictably, it gained depth with meats and cheese on the evening. Thumbs up!
  • Waitrose Blueprint Australian Shiraz (£6.99). This one was very popular with the crowd. Not as dark red as some other Shirazes the nose offered black fruit, Pepper, menthol, spices, oak, vanilla and camphor. A rich and fruity red, full of deep blackberry flavours with a twist of black pepper and a soft, smooth texture. Ideal with red meats, sausages or rich pasta sauces. Suggested serving temperature is a warm 18C.

Dessert Wine

  • Greek Wine Cellars Cameo Mavrodaphne of Patras NV (£6.95). This was a first for most members, a lusciously sweet wine with a rich bouquet of dried fruit, cinnamon and walnut and has mouth-filling flavours of raisins, prunes and figs; and a long, persistent finish. Mavrodaphne is a black grape of the Greek Peloponnese and fermentation is arrested before completion with a grape distilled spirit as Ports are and then it is aged in barrels in a solera system. It brought back memories of Greek holidays and delicious meals, some of which you can download and print here. Enjoy!

December 2020 – Christmas (Virtual) Tasting!

Food and Wine from Aldi – at home with some chums!

Well our first virtual tasting was a huge success. Despite the restrictions on gatherings, members joined on Zoom from all over the South of England and even South Africa, as we worked our way through 4 wines from Aldi, selected by Jilly Goolden. And our amazing Catering team had even lined up some Aldi snacks to match the wines, with thumbs up all round! All agreed that the ability to see each other and chat about the wines (and other things) was a lovely change from facing forwards and trying to be quiet in the echoey hall!

White Wines

  • Rias Baixas Albarino £6.99 [Albariño from Galicia in Spain or (Alvarinho in Portugal). Citrus / Peach / Floral. A natural partner to seafood, pasta and appetisers. Click here to learn more about the wine and the region.]
  • Specially Selected” range Gavi £6.69 (with coloured label not white label) [Made with Cortese grapes grown in the foothills of the Italian Alps. This dry, balanced white wine opens up with apple and floral notes after an hour out of the fridge. Would complement roast chicken or work well as an aperitif.]

Red Wines

  • “Specially Selected” range Chile Pinot Noir £6.99 [Grown in the Casablanca Valley, central Chile, the climate is not dissimilar to parts of California known for Pinot Noir, such as Monterey. This light-bodied, smooth red wine is fruity (blackcurrant and red fruit) with a subtle hint of oak. Best enjoyed at the lower-end of room temperature and would pair well with lamb.]
  • Spanish Priorat £8.99 [This Catalonian blend of Garnacha Tinta and Carignan was fairly light coloured for a full bodied red, with gentle tanins and black fruit on the nose. Perfect with red meat and cheese.]

We will look at repeating the experience again in the near future – keep this page bookmarked and look out for the WAS emails with details of the next one!

Feb 2020 – Lidl’s Best Wines, with Richard Bampfield (MW)

Every now and then we are privileged to welcome a Master of Wine to address the club and present a range of wines of his choice. For February’s meeting we welcomed back Richard Bampfield (MW) to present wines from Lidl’s standard range,

Richard has a long and distinguished career in the wine trade and, among his many strands, he writes the tasting notes for Lidl’s presentation wines. For this tasting all his wines were from Lidl’s stock lines (the ones that are sold standing up, not the ones that are sold in wooden cases. Those are limited selections sold on a “when its gone, its gone” basis and vary from season to season and from store to store). With two exceptions (in interlopers from Waitrose) all the wines were priced under £12 proving that good, enjoyable wines don’t have to be expensive.

I list the wine here with your chairman’s comments.

  1. Champagne Comte de Senneval Brut, Champagne, France. Comment: Just off-dry, balanced, subtle and understated. Good for a second glass. An easy pre-dinner swig. £12
  2. Macon-Villages 2018, Burgundy, 12.5%, France. Comment: A light and easy Chardonnay, dry, balanced and showing some complexity. £6.99
  3. Pecorino 2018, Terre di Chieti IGT, Italy 12%. Comment: A lovely Abbruzo wine. Fresher and fruitier than its French competitor. £5.49
  4. Brauneberger Kurfurstlay Riesling Feinherb 2018 Mosel, Germany. 11%. Comment: Once would have been styled “Kabinett” or off-dry. A typical German Reisling, crisp, acidic and mouth-watering. Would make an excellent aperitif or accompaniment to Fusion food.
  5. Rioja Reserva 2015 Cepa Lebrel Rioja, Spain 13.5%. Comment: Characteristic Tempranillo with tastes of summer fruits and a long finish. £5.79
  6. Rioja Reserva 2014 Beronia, Rioja, Spain, 14%. Comment: This is a Waitrose or Wine Society choice. Almost equicalent to its Lidl competitor, but at nearly three times the price £15.99
  7. Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2017, Bordeaux, France, 14%. Comment: Earthy and Tannic, well- structured Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc blend. This would improve given a couple of years’ cellaring. £10.99
  8. Malbec “Extreme Terroir” 2017 Colomé, Salta, Argentina, 14.5%. Comment: Another interloper from Waitrose. A big wine from the northern part of Argentina. Floral on the nose with a scent of violets. Fruity with a refreshing acidity. Not too oaked and with long finish. £18 (often reduced to £10)
  9. Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc 2018 Winemakers Series. Marlborough, New Zealand. 12%. Comment: This is a carbonated wine, like Prosecco so its mousse doesn’t last, But with such a pleasant easy drink, does it need to? £9.99
  10. Tarragona Gran Reserva 2013 Baturrica 13%. This was to accompany our finger buffet (for which thanks are due to Roger and Lesley Blake). An easy red quaffing wine at £4.99

It was an excellent presentation and an educative tasting. We hope to invite Richard back to the club in the not too distant future. Happy Lidl shopping one and all.

January 2020 – Old vs New World – The Naked Grape

Blind tastings are always fun but Simon Evans, MD and Founder of The Naked Grape made today’s tasting a truly memorable one. Not only does Simon do an amazing job of picking superb, unique and unusual wines, but he delivers the evening in an informative, fun, educational and interactive style, that found us exploring areas of our taste and senses we didn’t even know we had!

The wines were presented in 4 pairs of grapes, each pair featuring one from the New World and one from the Old World. Our job, with Simon’s guidance, was to fully experience each wine and identify the grape, region, year and more. All of the wines were from The Naked Grape’s typical unique “not on the high street” selection and many we’d not come across before.

Starting with a pair of Arneis whites from Italy and Uruguay, we found that not only were they really interesting, quite different, a bit complex and truly scrumptious, but nobody could identify the grape, but everyone wanted more! The Chardonnays from France and South Africa were harder to identify than expected, mostly due to the clever selection of and subtle oaking, about which we learnt a lot!

The reds started with a pair of Pinot Noirs from New Zealand and Germany, again were unlike many we’d tried before, with more interesting and slightly more depth, which made them quite desirable. The Malbecs were the highlight of the evening for the red fans with Chile and France showing how different the finished product can be and how unusual and interesting Malbecs can be.

We ended the evening with a superb and really unusual Dessert Wine – the Toro del Piedra Late Harverst Sauvignon Blanc from Chile, which, served with Ian and Cathy’s little morsel of Stollen delivered the perfect finale!

We look forward to welcoming Simon back in the not too distant future, but meanwhile his shops in Hungerford, Four Marks and Alresford are amongst the “50 Best Independent” wine stores and are on our doorstep.

December 2019 – Christmas Event

The theme for this year’s Christmas Event was Christmas Down Under, sampling Wines and Foods of Christmas of the Antipodes.

The format was informal along the lines of a 4-Corners tasting with wines featuring names such as Tasmanian, Marlborough, Hunter Valley, Madfish, Kooyong, Wirra-Wirra, Otago etc. Many are from the Wine Society Exhibition List and combined with a series of delicious food dishes, delivered an evening of excellence, fun and friendship.

November 2019 – New Zealand Wines

Many presenters to our club sell wines. Occasionally we have the privilege of welcoming a producer of wines to show us their wares. This November our presenter was Angela Lewis, UK marketing manager for Villa Maria wines of New Zealand, one of their most renowned brands.

Villa Maria, under the direction of their founder, Sir George Fistonich, have vineyards at Auckland, Gisborne and Hawkes Bay in North Island, and Marlborough in South Island There they produce white wines from Albarino, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, and red wines from Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Syrah grapes. We were able to taste 11 of their wines starting with an easy Gisborne Albarino 2018 with aromas of citrus flowers and melon, through a classic zesty Wairu Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2018 with its powerful Blackcurrant, acidic grapefruit and elderflower tang. We compared this with a Clifford Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2018 which had flavours of lemongrass and limes – more flavoursome and less zesty.

Oaky Chardonnays have been signature wines from New Zealand for some while. We tasted a delightful cocktail of stone fruit, biscuit and hazelnut in a Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2017. Several of us reacted with pure delight.

With the interval buffet came a Private bin Pinot Grigio 2018 and a Private Bin Merlot / Cab. Sauv. blend 2016, both great with food.

The reds were: a Marlborough Pinot Noir 2014 with lovely floral and red fruit aroma and a velvety texture, a dense purple Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2014, which Angela described as “Pinot Noir for grown-ups”, and a Bordeaux style blend of Merlot, Malbec and Pinot Noir which was mouth-watering. We finished with an intense Hawkes Bay Malbec 2017.

It was a splendid tour of the best of New Zealand and a tasting which we should like to repeat, perhaps in a year or so.

October 2019 – Wines of the Caucasus

Our October tasting was another unusual and special event. Our very own Jon Barnes delivered a “Wines of the Caucasus” evening, featuring wines from an area situated between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. Inspired by a recent holiday visit to Georgia and Armenia and supported with his own research, Jon assembled an intriguing collection of wines and grape varieties that in all probability no-one in the club had ever tasted before.

The Caucuses comprise Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh. Part Christian and part Muslim. Georgia was, after the Roman empire, Christian, and with Christianity came wine making. There is also evidence that Georgia was producing wines from 4,000 BC from, at first, wild grapes and then from cultivars.

A pink champagne-method from the Tavkveri grape started the evening off, followed by a white blend of Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane grapes, not dissimilar to a Reisling. Then a strong orange wine made from the Rkatsitelie grapes fermented in a huge earthenware amphorae called Qvevri. These are still in use and are attracting the attention of European wine makers, as are orange wines. Both these wines had received Decanter magazine awards.

Jon then showed four red wines, a Georgian Valleys Mukuzani made from the Saperavi grape – a grape of coloured juice, giving a deep ruby apperarance, a Kataro dry red from Nagorno-Karabath made from the Sireni grape, an Armenian oaked red being a blend of Areni and Khndogjni grapes which resembled the Sangiovese wines of Italy and another Georgian Qvevri wine which was almost black in appearance and rich and fruity in the mouth. We finished with a red Georgian Khvanchkara semi-sweet wine which left a lovely jammy pomegranate flavour in the mouth.

I think we were all quite astounded by this flight of novel wines and grapes. Jon’s thoroughly researched and charmingly presented Caucasian adventure will resonate for years to come.

Keep an eye out in Waitrose for orange Qvevvri wines.

September 2019 – Wines of the Americas

29 of us attended September’s tasting, where we were welcomed with a choice of Italian sparklers sourced by Andy and Alie Ball, caterers for the evening.

The main business was a wide-ranging presentation from Katie Turner, Manager of Majestic Wines in Alton, featuring wines from both North and South America. First off we tasted a couple of Chardonnays at different price points. First was the Argentinian Catena Alta from elevated vineyards in the Mendoza valley, which showed fruitiness and body, while the second (and significantly more expensive) came from the renowned Au Bon Climat vineyard in Santa Barbara, California. This was definitely more structured with some mineral complexity.

Our final white was an intriguing and reasonably complex Gewürztraminer from the innovative Chilean winery Morandé. Good value!

During the buffet we sampled a refreshing Torrontes from Argentina and a very popular Pinot Noir from California’s Edna Valley Vineyard.

On to the reds and first up was another Morandé offering, made from the relatively unusual Pais grape variety – its light appearance and fresh red fruit flavour belieing its 13% alcohol content. This would be a very pleasant alternative to a Beaujolais or a full-bodied Rosé, and could easily be served lightly chilled.

All the way up to Washington State next, for a fairly traditional style Cabernet Sauvignon from Chateau Sainte Michelle, which had more blackberry and blackcurrant nose and palette than most people had come across before, splitting the audience on whether it was amazing or just weird!

The next three more reds built on body, one after the other and were all pretty amazing. Starting with the Medalla Real Carmenere from Santa Rita, one of Chile’s oldest and largest historic wine producers, at the lower end of the price range, we moved on to a Malbec from Zuccardi, their Poligonos Tupungato Alto Malbec, an impressive example of one of Argentina’s signature wines. But both those were outshone by the Orin Swift Palermo from the Napa Valley, which was so smooth, powerful and rounded with fairly complex notes of cherry, raspberry and spices. Majestic have only limited quantities of this (it’s not listed on their website), and a complete steal at the special price offered to WAS members.

As if that wasn’t enough, Katie topped things off with the superb Quady Elysium Black Muscat dessert wine, silky and intense with really rich and velvety fruit. A great way to end a great evening.

August 2019 – Itchen Valley Brewery Tour

August has traditionally been a break in the Wine Appreciation Society’s schedule but more recently we’ve been experimenting with beer tastings. This August we had field trip to Itchen Valley Brewery, Alresford, to tour the brewery and taste the beers they are currently producing. The evening started by tasting four beers, ranging in colour and hoppiness, plus a delicious honey & elderflower brew (called IVBee), together with an overview of how they produce the beer. Once refreshed we followed owner Pat around and saw (and smelt!) the process from Mash Tun to cask. After the tour we settled back into the reception for a pint and finger buffet – food perfectly paired of course.

July 2019 – Summer Garden Party

The WAS held its annual summer ”garden” party at David & Sue Rossell’s home in Four Marks. Though the weather turned wet we still managed to host 26 attendees inside. The theme this year was “wines from the Loire Region” and we tasted 10 wines made along the Loire Valley from Muscadet in the west to Pouilly Fume in the east. On show were two Cremants from Bouvet Ladubay in Saumur – a blanc and a rose, a Chinon Le Bourg, a Saumur Champigny from ancient wine makers, Chateau de Hureau, and two wines from Jacky Blot – champion wine maker of Montlouis sur Loire, his Domaine de la Butte and a sweet from Domaine de la Taiile aux Loups.

Members provided a sumptuous fare of country pates, fresh salmon and cold roast beef, salads and, of course, strawberries and cream, profiteroles and chocolate brownies and more accompanied by a cool glass of Bonnezeaux les Roches. A wonderful tray French cheeses helped eaters to finish the red wines. The sun eventually came out and members wandered around David & Sue’s lovely garden. Our next meeting, on August 15th is a change from wines when we shall visit the Itchen Valley Brewery for beer tasting.

June 2019 – Laithwaites Italian Tasting

Laithwaites Wines is now the UK’s largest home-delivery wine merchant with a range of over 1500 wines. At our June tasting Mr. Eddie Lewis, their Theale shop manager and showed us 10 of those. His brief was: A tour of Italy in wines – a large-ish canvas to choose from in grape origins, wine making styles and regions. We tasted an attractively priced set, ranging from easy drinking whites made from Garganega (the grape of Soave) near Lake Garda, through Gavi di Gavi, a crisp and fruity Piedmont white, via Saracosa, the deep scarlet Sangiovesi and Cabernet Sauvignon blends of Tuscany to the Vermentino and Nerello wines of Sicily. It was quite a tour. We ended with two superb wines: Villa Vavarena 2015 and Monte Barbera d’Alba Superiore 2013 both selling at the upper end of Laithwaites price range. Eddie has about 30 years in the wine business and his knowledge was superb. He had kindly included an “on the night” discount of about 15% for club orders which we made good use of. It was a good evening for the club.

May 2019 – The Wines of Germany

David Brown, of Justerini and Brooks made his fourth visit to the club to present a brief journey through the wines of Germany. Justerinis have an excellent reputation for their German portfolio, built up over generations it offers the very best Riesling but is increasingly known for other exceptional grape varieties, notably Pinot Noir or Spatburgunder as it is also known.

Producing wines of almost every style Germany can appear confusing but those complex looking labels actually provide plenty of helpful information, during the tasting David will helped simplify this and gave confidence to discover, re-discover or to deepen ones appreciation of this fantastic wine growing country.

April 2019 – AGM and Members selection

The AGM is always helped along with a few glasses of vino and this year was no exception. Members of the committee each brought their favourite wine, gave a short description and the result was a broad selection of wonderful wines.