July 25th 2021 – A Possible Garden Party?
As discussed at the June Tasting, on Sunday 25th July we are planning to run our first WAS Garden Party for two years and would like to check the interest level amongst WAS Members to help plan the event and catering correctly.
The Garden party will take place at David and Sue’s house and garden in Four Marks, not far from Alton, from 1-5pm on Sunday 25th July. The format will be a relaxed buffet lunch and of course a selection of our favourite wines.
The cost is just £15 a head for members and guests and we’d love to know if you’d like to come and how many places you’d like.
If you could email to let us know by June 26th it would be very helpful and appreciated.
We look forward to hearing from you.
The WAS Committee
June 2021 – Wine Society Tasting
June’s tasting was different to the previous lockdown ones, in that the committee sourced wines from the Wine Scoiety, decanted them into tasting portions and distributed them to members. This allowed for a different selection and quality of wines, all of which was a hit with the attendees.
Our selection is a flight of 6 wines from The Wine Society’s Exhibition range. Click on each wine for the tasting notes which you can read on screen, download or print.
- The Society’s Exhibition Rheingau Riesling 2019
- The Society’s Exhibition Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2020
- The Society’s Exhibition Pouilly-Fuissé 2018
- The Society’s Exhibition Marlborough Pinot Noir 2020
- The Society’s Exhibition Haut-Médoc 2016
- The Society’s Exhibition Crozes-Hermitage 2019
May 2021 – A Tesco Finest Spring Picnic
Our theme for the evening was A Spring Picnic, with a varied selection of foods accompanying the various wines tasted during the evening, all selected from the Tesco Finest range.
We started the evening with a choice of two sparkling wines; a rosé and a white. Both were Limoux wines from Languedoc-Roussillon. One of the oldest sparkling wines, Blanquette de Limoux was first created by Benedictine monks using the best Mauzac and Chenin grapes.
These were followed by two whites and two reds. Albariño was our choice of white along with an extremely good value blend of unusual grapes called St Mont from the South West of France. For the reds we selected two classics from the New World; a Pinot Noir from New Zealand and a Shiraz from Barossa Valley in Australia.
To round off the evening we made no apology for selecting the gold medal Pedro Ximinez which we sampled at the April tasting of “stickies”. It was a total winner when served with ice cream!
- Fizz Finest Blanquette de Limoux £9.50 – From the Limoux region of France in the foothills of the pyrenees, this wine’s appearance was pale straw, clean and clear. On the nose it was citrus & light and there was a hint of sweetness, though not demi-sec – peach, apples and toasted brioche (from the lees), with a short finish. Enjoyed by all mostly without food, but not as much as the next one!
- Fizz Finest Cremant de Limoux Rose £12 – From the same region but made this time from Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir grapes, pressed to give it the Rosé blush, this was a slightly more complex wine. A mid coloured rosé blush, with berries and summer fruits on the nose. It was sweeter than the blanquette, with hints of strawberry and raspberry and a pleasnt long finish. Paired well with Salads, seafood or ham croquettes – or just as good on its own.
- White Finest St Mont £6.50 – This wine is no longer available but was made from rare local grapes Gros Manseng, Petit Courbu, Arrufiac and Petit Manseng. This light, crisp dry wine had delicate flavours of citrus and white peaches. Best enjoyed with white fish or soft cheese.
- White. Finest Picpoul de Pinet. £7.50 – A firm favourite on the evening, this light, crisp wine is grown around the Bassin de Thau in Languedoc, an ideal location as locals say Picpoul vines need to “have their heads in the wind and their feet in the sea”. A zesty fragrant wine that offers plenty of fresh citrus, green apple and mineral flavours. Fun facts; the distinctive embossed bottle is called a “Neptune” and the name Picpoul literally translates as “lip stinger”.
- White Finest Vinas del Rey Albarino £8.00 – A friend to all things from the sea. This straw coloured wine has slight green hues and is bone dry with aromas of apricot, honeysuckle and notes of fresh grapefruit and mandarin. It was well received by the majority of the group and felt to be good value for money. It pairs exceptionally well with white fish and lighter meats and also leafy green herbs.
- Red Finest Marlborough Pinot Noir £9.00 – This wine was a deep red ruby colour – nothing like the expected pinot noir light red. In addition, everyone who tasted it agreed that it didn’t smell or taste like a pinot noir either. Very confusing and disappointing. Personally, we think the wrong wine was bottled and on complaining to Tesco they refunded the £9.
- Red Finest Barossa Shiraz £10.00 – Red with a hint of brick red indicating it’s age this is a blend of Shiraz, Mataro and Cabernet Sauvignon from grapes grown in the Barossa Valley in Australia. On the nose there are cooked red plum, cherry and blackcurrant aromas with toasty cedar oak. The taste is not subtle and has lots of black cherry with a sprinkling of vanilla, white & black pepper and a minty freshness on the finish. Good accompaniment to all meats this is best enjoyed with peppered steak and other grilled or barbecued red meats. Overall reasonable value for money but not as rich as most Australian Shiraz.”
- Sticky Finest Pedro Ximenez 37.5cl £6.00 – A velvety smooth Sherry from the 180 year old Gonzalez Byass family winery in Jerez, Spain. Pedro Ximenez grapes are laid out to dry in the hot sun before pressing and ageing in the traditional solera system. The resulting nectar is deliciously rich and warming. On the nose rich aromas of fruits such as raisins, figs and dates accompany honey, syrup and fruit preserve. The palate is velvety and smooth with good acidity which alleviates the sweetness. Long and flavourful finish. Simply delicious on its own or poured over vanilla ice cream.
Apr 2021 – Dessert & Sweet Wines
This month we tasted a selection of dessert and sweet wines from Tesco and Waitrose. All are available in store and may also be ordered on line.
The evening started with Jam Shed Shiraz, a sweet red wine to activate the palate in readiness for the sweeter dessert wines to follow. From there we moved on to a comparison tasting of 2 wines produced from the same grape (Muscat/Moscatel), one from France and the other from Spain. The second half of the tasting continued with 3 very different wines – a white dessert wine made from the Semillon grape, a red made from Grenache Noir and, finally, a Pedro Ximenez sherry.
Food matching was based on the ideas in this attached sheet.
Here are some short tasting notes on the 6 wines.
- Jam Shed Shiraz 2020. 13.5%, 75cl | Tesco.com £7. Deep red, almost opaque purple; aromas of burnt rhubarb and vanilla with spiced notes; rich, juicy, sweet red berry flavours. Very versatile – not only goes well with a host of main courses from fish and roasts to pasta and Indian curries, but a good match for desserts such as fruit cake and cheeses. Also recommended for mulling.
- Muscat Beaumes de Venise Carte Or | Waitrose & Partners £7.99 or £6.49 on offer. A fortified wine from the village of Baumes de Venise in the central southern Rhone, hand harvested and early in the fermentation, proof spirit is added up to 15% ABV which kills the yeast and leaves the residual sugar of the grapes, giving the sweet taste. Quite viscous with a pale straw colour this a floral wine with fruit blosoms and apricots on the nose, ripe fruit to taste and a long alcoholic finish. A pleasant aperitif or pair with fruits, dessert, or Pâté or blue cheese.
- Lustau Moscatel de Alejandría | Waitrose & Partners £6.49. Grown on the Atlantic coast of Anadlucia in Southern Spain near Cadiz, spirit is added as with the previous wine. Pale lemon with viscous “legs” the aroma includes roses, honeysuckle and lime blossom with a touch of dewey grass. The the taste is grapefruity acidic, lime marmalade, lemon sherbet, orange blossom, lychee and white peach flavours. More balanced than the Beaumes de venise. Paired with sweet desserts. Pâté de foie-gras, or on its own as a bon bouche at the end of a meal.
- Tesco Finest Dessert Semillon 37.5cl | Tesco £6. Picked late on the vine, the grapes’ natural sugars have been allowed to intensify, resulting in a golden hued wine boasting a delicate concentration of citrus, peach and apricot flavours that are both sumptuous and fresh. Fabulous with sweet desserts, but try it with blue cheese for an inspired pairing. Keep up to 3 years.
- Domaine Pouderoux Maury Grande Reserve Roussillon France | Waitrose & Partners £11.49. 50cl, 15.5%. 100% grenache noir grapes. Magnificent mahogany colour; deep, rich aromas of chocolate, vanilla, sweet red berries, prunes; flavours of prunes and figs with a long, spicy, plummy finish. Excellent with chocolate desserts, apple pie and Stilton blue cheese.
- Tesco Finest Pedro Ximenez 37.5cl | Tesco £6. A velvety smooth Sherry from the 180 year old Gonzalez Byass family winery in Jerez, Spain. Pedro Ximenez grapes are laid out to dry in the hot sun before pressing and ageing in the traditional solera system. The resulting nectar is deliciously rich and warming. On the nose rich aromas of fruits such as raisins, figs and dates accompany honey, syrup and fruit preserve. The palate is velvety and smooth with good acidity which alleviates the sweetness. Long and flavourful finish. Simply delicious on its own or poured over vanilla ice cream.
March 2021 – Sainsbury’s Italian Wine & Food Pairing
Our Italian evening was a big hit with the attendees. Once again the chance to mingle and chat about the wines (and other things) went down very well. And some of the food looked good too!
Based on Italian Wines from Sainsbury’s including some of their Taste the Difference range, the wines were as follows:
- Welcome (optional): Sainsbury’s Conegliano Prosecco, Taste the Difference, £10 (Food pairing: Ciabatta with Virgin Olive Oil and grated Parmesan Cheese, Olives and Pistachios). This Prosecco from the Veneto region of northern Italy and made from the Glera grape, has a clear pale straw colour with a little citrus on the nose. With flavours of apricot and citrus and a short finish, it went really well with the antipasti – olives and meats.
- White 1: Sainsbury’s Pecorino, Taste The Difference, £7 (Food pairing: Parma ham and melon, Antipasto selection). A medium-bodied, relatively aromatic dry white, pale straw in colour with floral nose of orange peel & herbal notes. Fruity & floral with hints of yellow apple & ripe peach. Full-bodied & rounded with a creamy texture. This wine has good concentration, and balancing acidity that gives keen freshness through the aftertaste. It went great with some Kedgeree!
- White 2: Sainsbury’s Gavi, Taste the Difference, £8 (Food pairing: Pasta carbonara, Spaghetti scallops, Sardines). This Gavi, from Monteferato in the Piemente region of Northern Italy is made from the Cortese grape and pale green, clear, clean colour with a luscious sheen. With Lemongrass and elderflowers on the nose and peach & citrus in the mouth, it also had a long finish. Went great with grilled fish and salads.
- Red 1: Piccini Chianti Riserva, £7 (Food pairing: Olive tapenade, Gnocchi, Spaghetti bolognese). A smooth elegant and velvety Italian wine with powerful aromas of ripe cherry. It has hints of spice and woody notes with soft tannins and long finish. Not a great wine but a good accompaniment to a Pepperoni Pizza.
- Red 2: Sainsbury’s Amarone, Taste the Difference, £16.50 (Food pairing: Beef carpaccio; Bresaola, Pepperoni Pizza, Pastissada de Caval or any braised beef or slow-cooked meat dishes). Amarones are produced from partially dried grapes, giving a deep red, rich and complex wine. This one, with typical notes of prunes and chocolate, was the star of the evening.
- Dessert (optional): Pellegrino Marsala Garibaldi Dolce, £10.50 (Food pairing: Biscotti; Panettone, Cannoli, Blood orange polenta cake, Tiramisu, Gelato Italian ice cream, Pannacotta). Sicily’s answer to sweet sherry and made from the Grillo, Inzolia, Cataratto and Damashino grapes, this wine is grown in the west of the island near the little port of Marsala! With a very intense amber colour, clear and shiny it gave plums on the nose and honeyed dried figs in the mouth with a lovely long finish.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.]
- “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.
- 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
- Macon-Villages 2018, Burgundy, 12.5%, France. Comment: A light and easy Chardonnay, dry, balanced and showing some complexity. £6.99
- Pecorino 2018, Terre di Chieti IGT, Italy 12%. Comment: A lovely Abbruzo wine. Fresher and fruitier than its French competitor. £5.49
- 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.
- Rioja Reserva 2015 Cepa Lebrel Rioja, Spain 13.5%. Comment: Characteristic Tempranillo with tastes of summer fruits and a long finish. £5.79
- 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
- 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
- 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)
- 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
- 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.
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
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
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.