Wine Circle

May 2018

David Byrne’s in Clitheroe is a well known independent wine shop that carries a huge stock of products from around the world.  A visit there is a treat for anyone with an interest in wine. We were therefore delighted to welcome Simon Jackson from Byrne’s as our guest presenter for the meeting on the 21st May.

Simon decided to present to the group a selection of wines from Greece and Portugal. These two countries produce many of their wines from indigenous grape varieties developed to suit local conditions, rather than the well known ‘international’ varieties. The results are often wines with distinct flavours and character that stand out from the crowd.

We tasted three whites, two from Greece and one from Portugal. One of the Greek Wines was an example of Retsina, a wine that does have a poor reputation, but this example was very palatable with soft undertones of herbs giving it an unusual but pleasant flavour. The other two whites were light whites that would go down well on a sunny day, perhaps reflecting the weather in their countries of origin.

The red selection consisted of two Portugese and one Greek wine. One of the Portugese wines was produced using traditional clay amphorae reflecting a more traditional method of wine production. The Portugese wines were produced using indigenous grape varieties, the Greek from a mixture of indigenous and international varieties.

The final wine, a pudding wine, using muscatel grapes from Portugal, concluded the evening during which we sampled some excellent and interesting wines from both countries. Judging by the comments, everyone enjoyed this visit from Byrne’s and we hope that they will return next year.

The food for the evening was provided by Jena and Richard Pearson, and the vote of thanks given by Rosemary Stokes.

June 2018

At the June meeting, circle member Guy Pugh presented a selection of wines from Marks & Spencer. The retailer has had its problems in recent years, but there have been indications in the specialist wine press that its selection of wine has been good in quality and price.

The selection of two whites (including one from Japan) and five reds confirmed that trend. The Japanese wine certainly divided opinion, but the rest of the selection which came from Spain, Chile, Uruguay, Argentina and Australia showed what excellent quality wines are now available from the M&S shelves.

Guy’s upbeat presentation, and the very enjoyable wines made for a tremendous evening and finished the 2017/18 season on a high note. Food was provided by Christine and Frank Holland and Lynn and Steve Ridings, Frank Holland gave the vote of thanks.

The circle has had a good year with a number of new members. It provides the opportunity for members to sample a wide range of wines from a number of local wineshops and we believe that our tastings represent  extremely good value for money.

August 2018

In addition to our regular programme, the Circle decided to hold a Champagne tasting event on Sat 11th August.  The term “Champagne” was a bit of a euphemism, as it was intended to allow members to compare a range of sparkling wines.

The seven wines included four Champagnes priced from two at budget level and two more moderately expensive varieties.  Sadly our budget did not stretch to varieties costing hundreds of pounds a bottle, favoured by Yuppies working in the share and commodities markets in the City of London in the 1980’s.

The question being posed to those attending was whether the cost of buying Champagne is justified, given the range of other sparkling wines on the market, particularly if someone was buying a sparkling wine to celebrate a wedding or other important occasion.

The wines were accompanied by an excellent three course menu prepared and served by Anne Whitehead, Jackie Hastings and Glynis Jefferson.

We started the evening with a Prosecco, a light and pleasant fizz from Booths, which accompanied presentations about Champagne’s history, and the wines that are produced in the defined area of France that is Champagne by Alan Jefferson and Guy Pugh.

Our starter was very local, with potted Morecambe Bay Shrimps accompanied by a Cremant de Jura from Aldi, a wine which has proved popular with circle members.  Cremant style wines are produced in various regions of France and are another alternative to Champagne.

The main course of Salmon was served with Aldi’s Champagne and the dessert of Strawberry Treats was served with a sparkling wine from Tasmania, demonstrating that antipodean producers are in the market to sell sparkling wines and what they produce are of an excellent standard.

A Co-op champagne accompanied nibbles to clear palates, before the main event and the serving of the two examples of more expensive Champagne to finish the evening.

I don’t recall a a definitive answer to the question posed earlier, as people clearly had come up with different answers.  Perhaps the cumulative effects of the sparkling wines themselves reduced the chances of any kind of rational answer emerging !!

We all had an excellent evening with some wonderful wines and excellent food and much praise and thanks must be extended to all those involved in organising and presenting the evening.

October 2018

Stuart Rothwell from the Vineyard wine shop in Ramsbottom was our guest speaker this month.  He provided us with a selection of wines from Portugal.  The table wines from that country are overshadowed by both those from its Iberian neighbour, Spain and by the products of the Port Houses.

As we discovered during this evening, the country produces some excellent wines, most of which are produced from indigenous grape varieties.  It is a shame that retailers often have limited stocks of Portuguese wines.

We started with a taste of white port, both with and without tonic, a drink popular as an aperitif with the Portuguese.  We followed with a Vinho Verde and two other white wines, all of which were light and fresh.

Four reds followed, all of which demonstrated the high quality of reds that are currently being produced in Portugal.  We finished with a sample of dessert wine produced in the Setubal Region, a delicious way to end an excellent tasting.

The refreshments for the evening were produced by Jackie Hastings and Glynis Jefferson, and the vote of thanks was given by Philippa Caterall.

January 2019

Fortysix members and three visitors braved the cold and wet for our first meeting in 2019 where John Harwood from Waitrose in Preston was the speaker.

He presented us a sample of no less than eight wines from South Africa starting with Graham Beck, a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay which was the sparkling wine served at Nelson Mandella’s inauguration.

This was followed by three whites, The Search, a blend of Grenache Blanc, Marsanne and Rousanne. Kaapzicht, a delightful Chenin Blanc and finally a sauvignon Blanc, De Grendel.

The red wines were Journey’s End, a Cabernet Sauvignon, Cederberg a Shiraz specially bottled for Waitrose whose makers use the profit from it to fund education for the families working in the vineyard.  The final red was The Chocolate Block, a blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah.

We finished the evening with a small taste of a sweet pudding wine, Rustenberg which was bottled at 16.5% alcohol

The refreshments were produced by Steve Holt and Janet and Ken Holmes and the vote of thanks was given by Jennifer McNamee.

February 2019

At the February meeting Circle member Stephane Jamin presented a selection of wines from Booths to Circle members.

The selection included wines from Australia, France, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa and Spain. A total of eight wines, three whites and five reds.

The whites, from Australia, South Africa and New Zealand were all very good.  The New Zealand wine was a Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, an iconic though expensive wine from that country, but good for a special event.

The reds were from South Africa, Portugal, Italy, france and Spain, so four out of five from the “Old World”. An excellent selection of reds that would grace any meal.  It showed that the “Old World” can still produce very good quality wines, and we should not always head for what is described as the “New World” for our purchases.

A selection of excellent refreshments were provided by Ann & Richard Harrison and Philippa Catterall.  The vote of thanks was given by Alan Jefferson.

March 2019

At the March meeting we travelled back to Italy with a presentation from Bruno Rafala from Enoteca, the wine shop at Huntleys farm shop at Samlesbury.

Guy Pugh gave Bruno the brief of bringing white winew from Southern Italy and reds from the North of the country.  Normally you might expect reds from the hotter south and whites from the cooler region of the north.

We tasted seven wines in all, three whites and four reds.  The grape varieties used in most of these wines were all indigenous to the area in which the wines is produced.

The whites all conjured up thoughts of hot summer days and cold refreshing wines drunk al fresco.  Two of the reds were quite light, and could be chilled for summer drinking, and two heavier reds that would go well with Autumn or Winter Stews.

A very enjoyable and interesting evening, with the wines enhanced by an excellent selection of food produced by Jackie Hastings and Glynnis Jefferson.  The vote of thanks was proposed by Ann Wicks.

April 2019

Due to illness, the speaker from Bowland Forest Vintners was unable to attend the April meeting and Guy Pugh stepped into the breech with a selection of wines that he entitled “Turned out nice”.

Many of us have perhaps bought a slightly unusual but interesting looking bottle of wine, and sometimes found it to exceed our expectations in terms of taste and quality. This was the basis for the selection presented at this meeting.

Guy presented a total of eight wines to the meeting, five of which were obtained from our local Booths Store.

We started with a sparkling rosé wine from Australia and followed with three whites from Armenia, Hungary and Italy. Armenia may be a bit of a surprise choice, but archeological finds have suggested that this part of the world is where wine culture may have begun, perhaps as much as 4,500 years BC. The sparkling wine was made using Pinot Noir, but all of the whites were made from unfamiliar grape varieties that we might normally ignore.  

The four reds were from Italy, USA (California), Spain and Australia and made from more familiar grape varieties, but the names given to the wines, or the bottle shape or label might draw the attention of the more adventurous wine buyer. That was the intended message of the evening, when buying wine, be a little adventurous and don’t always go for the familiar !

An interesting and entertaining evening that clearly provoked a great deal of discussion amongst members.

Thanks go to Diana and Colin Bell for the excellent food provided during the evening, and Philippa Catterall for the Vote of Thanks.