Harwood The group will meet in an informal friendly environment to discuss and enjoy wine together. Better than drinking alone!

Group Coordinators: Derek Harwood (click to contact)


Once a month. Generally the 2nd Tuesday of each month.

We have started to meet physically again in a member's house.


Our general operating methods are (subject to Covid restrictions):
  • It will meet monthly.
  • It will meet in members’ houses, pubs or venues.
  • There will be a theme selected by the group members (in advance), eg Loire wines.
  • There will be a sign-up for each session with the limit set at the first 10 (if in a member's house). A minimum of eight members will be necessary for each session to meet.
  • The sign-up (ie registration) for each session will open generally just after the last session (ie about three weeks' advance notice). No email notice of sign-up opening will be given — you need to keep an eye on this page if you are keen.
  • In the week before each event there will be an email notice if spaces remain available.
  • Five of those attending each session will be invited to bring a bottle.
  • A guideline price of up to £10.00 per bottle will be followed.
  • The person bringing the bottle will be expected to have researched the providence and present the details to the Group.
  • If meeting in a member's house snacks will be provided by hosts.
  • If meeting in a member's house each person attending (and not bringing wine) will pay £10 a session to cover all costs. Hosts will get food costs reimbursed. Any surplus will be carried forward towards a special evening open to all group members.
  • Outings for meals or to vineyards could be considered by the Group.

You don't need any prior expertise in wine tasting but it is expected that you will have to do some pre-work for each session to support group discussion on the chosen wine topic.

If you are interested in joining this group, please sign into the Beacon members' system here, then under Groups, find and click on Wine Appreciation. There you will see the option of joining online. Please provide your details there. Once you've registered for the group you will receive further information through emails. Or you can send me an email — to the email account link at the top of this page.

Other Information
If you ever wondered what the most popular grape varieties are (out of the 10,000 grape varieties in total) then these are listed here.

Post Covid-19 lockdown: please view our generic risk assessment of our group's activity under Covid-19 conditions here. You will be expected to 'accept' this risk assessment before taking part in any physical iU3A Wine Appreciations sessions.

Future Sessions
The full lookahead date information is now visible in the new 'Beacon' members' system. The link to Beacon for iU3A members is here. Once you've clicked there, sign in with your personal details, then on the Home page click on 'Calendar of meetings and events'. You'll see all groups listed there; at the top line next to 'Group', in the gap select the drop-down menu arrow; scroll down
to Wine Appreciation, click that, then only the dates for the Wine Appreciation group will be shown.

Tuesday, 15 February (sign up open) — we'll be tasting Eastern European wines at this session. Kate will be host (details will be issued to those registering).

Our Recent Meetings
January: for our first session of 2022 we tasted some 'best of festive drinks'. This started with a prosecco, followed by two whites, a Piquepol Sauvignon blend, then a Viognier. Both receiving an equal rating from the group. We then tasted two reds, a Organica Primitivo and then a French Pinot Noir with the Pinot receiving a slightly higher rating.

this was our Christmas Social at Oaks wine bar in Finsbury Park led by the knowledgeable owner, who had picked one sparkling (a rose Malbec), two whites and two reds. Both whites and both reds used the same grape variety, one being old world, the other new world. So this gave us a great opportunity to discuss the similarities and differences. A good range of nibbles and charcuterie accompanied the excellent wines. 

Christine hosted this one and we had a departure from the norm, not just wine tasting but this time also sherry tasting. However, we also tasted three Riojas. Most preferred the drier (pale) sherry, a Manzanilla, but some were not into sherries in any form. Even the white Riojas split opinion with some liking the Campo Viejo Viura, others preferring the Cune. We now also know why some wines have wire around the bottle (originally a counterfeit prevention method).

October: Kate hosted this session where we tasted two Pinots — Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir (two whites and two reds). The two Gris (one from New Zealand and one from Sicily) were very different, showing the difference possible even with the same grape variety. Some preferred the first, others the second one, again showing how palates are different. For the reds, two were Pinot Noirs, one from New Zealand and the other from France (the original source of this grape). There was closer scoring between these two with a more similar taste, but again some preference for one over the other. 

this was the first of our gatherings back indoors, back to our normal format. Those attending enjoyed the opportunity to again share tasting some good wines while enjoying social contact and conviviality again. The theme was supposed to be 'French wines only', but we ended up with a variety of wines presented. Top score for depth of research and presentation goes to Wendy with her IGP Cotes Catalanes, L'Effect Papillon wine. However, best wine of the evening (scoring 4.25) went to Liz's Viognier also good value at £9.99 from Majestic.

for ease of arrangement with uncertainty still around we decided to meet again at the Canonbury Tavern. This time we chose their Rioja Blanc followed by the Norton Malbec. We again compared our views with that of 'Vivino' (the online App). The white was very pleasant and hence by popular demand required another bottle, the average score being 4.0. For those who shifted to the red, it was also enjoyed — full-bodied but not too heavy, also scoring a 4.0.

June: 'freedom day' (Step 4 and the removal of remaining Covid restrictions) didn't happen so we were still under Step 3 restrictions and hence in the Canonbury Tavern's gardens — again — with their pricey wines. This time we selected their Picpoul which was much appreciated (4.5 by our ratings) for our white. Then we had their Chilean Merlot — not so much appreciated (rating average 3.5).

May: this was again held at the Canonbury Tavern, outside in their garden. Great to meet again physically.  We'd pre-selected wines from the Canonbury's wine list. These were: Wild Spell Pinot Gris (which was generally enjoyed) from Australia and their Montepulciano d'Abruzzo from Italy (which received mixed reviews — one table enjoying, the other table not).  

this was held at the Canonbury Tavern, outside in their garden. Great to be meeting physically again.  We'd pre-selected wines from the Canonbury's wine list. These were: Thornhill, Chardonnay, from Australia and Viña Torcida, Rioja, from Spain. Both were enjoyed but with mixed scores given. 

March: this was another Zoom meeting. We chose wines from The Times 'Top 30 Wines Under £10'. But many were sold out so we only tasted three together. Others had their own choice:
Name               Country/Region            Year   Grape Variety   Alc Content  Price    Vendor    Rating
Red            Solomonar Reserve /Romania  2019        Blend            14.0%       £9.99    Majestic       4.0
Red            Morador Mendoza/Argentina    2019     Cabernet          14.0%      £9.00    Sainsbury's    4.0
White         La Prendina Estate/ Italy         2019  Pinot Grigio         12.0%      £9.50    M&S              4.0

this was another Zoom meeting.
Name                Country/Region    Year    Grape Variety    Alc Content    Price    Vendor    Rating
Riesling Rheinhessen    Germany     2019                                    9.00%       £5.80    Sainsbury's   4.00
Riesling    Clare Valley, Australia      2019         Riesling               11.50%     £6.90    Lidl                4.00
La Terrasse Rosé    Pays d’Oc      2019  La Terrasse Rosé Pays d’Oc 13.00%   £8.00  Sainsbury's     4.00
Casillero del Diabola                    2018     Cabernet Sauvignon                    £8.31    Morrisons      3.80
Marques de Riscal,  Spanish white 2019    Verdejo                         13.00%  £7.99    Majestic        4.00
Tiki Ridge                                    2020    Sauvignon Blanc             12.50%               Waitrose      3.70
Taste the Difference,Beaujolais Superior, 2019    Gamay                 13.00%   £8.50   Sainsbury's   3.80

this was a Zoom meeting. No particular wines were chosen beforehand. Members just shared with those online what they were drinking.
ber: we had hoped to have a physical meeting this month but this was another Zoom meeting as we were under Tier 3 restrictions. The communal wines tasted were:
Type........Name........Country/Region....Year......Grape........Alc Content.....Vendor....Rating
Pouilly Fume  ‘fine wines’     France         2019                          13.50%            Waitrose     4.5
Chablis          ‘fine wines’     France         2019                                                 Waitrose     3.2
Chianti        Tuscany            Italy            2019                                                 Waitrose     4.0
Chianti Classico  Tuscany     Italy            2018                                                 Morrisons    4.0

this was another Zoom meeting as we were in Lockdown2. The wines tasted were:
Type........Name........Country/Region....Year......Grape........Alc Content.....Vendor....Rating
Taste the Difference     Languedoc,Fance      2019                        13.00%        Sainsbury's      3.5
Casillero del Diablo                 Chile            2019  Sauvignon Blanc                     Majestic       3.5
Argentina Red; DV Catena Malbec             2018    Tempranillo                           Sainsbury's    4.0
Rioja, CVNE Cune Crianza                        2017                           13.50%            Majestic      3.85    

October: unfortunately with tighter Covid regulations this month we had to revert to this session being a Zoom meeting. We selected and tasted:
Type, Name, Region or Country...Year...Grape..............Alc Content...Vendor....Our Rating
Villa Maria  New Zealand                2019    Sauvignon Blanc     13%           Majestic        4.1
Cantina Di Negrar    Italy               2019    Valpolicella Classico 13%           Majestic        3.5
Identity by Journey's End,  SA        2020    Shiraz                   13.5%       Sainsbury's    4.8 (single vote)     
Tuscany                                       2014    Chanti Classico         14%        Waitrose       4.8 (single vote)
Puglia Villa dei Fiori                                                                                Wine Rack    5 (single vote)

September: this was our first physical meeting since pre-lockdown. So it was great to meet again in, relatively, close (socially distanced) contact. We sampled four pre-selected wines from the Canonbury's wine menu.
Type, Name, Region or Country.....Year...Grape..............Alc Content...Vendor....Our Rating
White, Deakin Estate, Australia          2018    Viognier            14.0%        Canonbury    3.5
White, Featherdrop Bay,New Zealand  2019 Sauvignon Blanc   12.5%       Canonbury    3.9
Red, Bodega Norton Porteño, Argentina n/k     Malbec             13.5%       Canonbury    3.9
Red, Jealousy, France                        2018    Pinot Noir          12.5%       Canonbury    3.0

: another online meeting. This time we tasted five easily procured wines. Here are our ratings of each:
Type, Name, Region or Country.................................Year..........Vendor....Our Rating.... Notes By
White, Gavi Araldica, Cortese Piedmont, Nr. Italy..............2019..........Majestic.......4.00............Denise
White, Definition Rioja Blanco, Spain..............................2019...........Majestic.......4.00...........Denise
White, Rioja Blanco Vinedos Barrihuelo, Spain.........2019 or 2018.......Sainsbury's..4.20............Liz
Red, Beaujolais from “Cuvee des Vignerons”, French........2018...........Waitrose......3.60............Eva
Red, Rhone Valley, Crozes Hermitage, French..................2018..........Waitrose.......4.00...........John

July: another online meeting, where we tasted four wines. Here are our ratings of each:
White, Parcel Series, Grüner Veltliner, Niederosterreich....  2018..........Majestic.......4.25...........Eva
White, Macon-Lugny from the Les Charmes estate............2018..........Waitrose.......4.50..........Liz
Red, Pinot Noir , "The Ned"............................................2018..........Waitrose.......4.00.........John
Red, Georges Duboeuf Fleurie........................................2017 or 2018..Sainsbury's..4.10........Pam

June: this was the first of our online Zoom sessions. Members could drink what they wanted in their own houses and share their views on the wine they were drinking. But we also had preferred wines which many had been able to buy. These were:

Wendy: from Highbury Barn wine shop. A Portuguese white wine: Adega Ponte de Lima Vinho Verde 2017, price not quoted.
Liz & Derek: from Sainsbury’s, Chenin Blanc, Fairtrade, Wild Valley 2019, S. Africa for £6.75;
Derek: from Sainsbury’s & Ocado, Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2018. No price quoted;
Julie: from Majestic, Nero Oro Riserva 2017, Sicily £9.99 for 6 or £14.99;
Derek: from Majestic, Nero Oro Appassimento, Sicily, £7.99 for mixed six deal. Very similar to above, so can be compared;
Derek: from Majestic, Beefsteak Club, Mallbec, 208, Mendoza, Argentina, £9.99 a bottle
Howard: Waitrose Albarino.

While not the same as face-to-face interaction the session went well and members asked for this format to be repeated.

March: WA1 was doing North American wines. We tried to avoid Californian & duplicates but with a restricted offering in the UK that wasn't totally possible. The ratings of the wines tasted were:

Year Grape Variety Alc Content  Country/Region Price Vendor Rating
Between the Vines 2017 Merlot 14% Washington State £9.99 Waitrose 3.0
Hedge CMS  2017 Cab.S/Merlot/Syrah 13% Washington State £13.95 Wine Soc. 4.1
Nettie 2017 Viognier 13% California £9.99 Majestic 3.1
Eight thousand lakes  2018 Sauvignon blanc 13% Washington State. £9.99 Majestic 3.3
Firesteed 2017 Pinot Noir 13.5% Oregon Willamnette Valley  £23.00 Wholefoods 4.1

WA1: February: This month WA1 & WA2 chose wines of the following grape varieties: Trebbiano and Tempranillo, apparently the world's 9th & 4th most popular grape varieties (by acreage). For the general notes of both follow the links. The ratings of the wines tasted were:


Name Year Grape Variety Alc Content Country/Region Price Vendor Rating
Castillo Catadau, Gran Reserva 2012 Tempranillo 14.0% Spain £8.99 Naked Wines 4.0
Anciano Gran Reserva 2009 Tempranillo Valdepenas.  13.0% Spanish  £9.69 Waitrose 4.1
Loriato 2018 Trebbiano, Romagnolo 12.0% Italy, Tuscany £5.99 Waitrose 3.7
Mortaro Orvieto  Classico, produced by Barberan. 2015 Trebbiano 12.0% Italy, Umbrai £11.99 Majestic 3.6
Papillion du Nuit 2009 Trebbiano, Ugni Blanc  13.5% French, SW £19.00 Provisions 3.1

WA2: We tasted two Trebbiano wines and three Tempranillo wines from various regions of Italy and Spain. We particularly enjoyed the Lugano Trebbiano, the Altos Ibericos Tempranillo and the Ancien Grand Tempranillo.

Name and Maker Year Grape Variety Alc Content Country/Region Price Vendor Rating
Fantini Trebbiano d'Abruzzo. Farnese Vini 2017 Trebbiano 12.0% Abruzzo Italy £9.26 Amazon 3.4
Lugano Villa Flora. Zanato 2018 Trebbiano 13.0% Lugano Italy £11.99 Waitrose 4.0
Altos Ibericos Crianza. Bodegas Torres 2016 Tempranillo 14.0% Rioja Spain £11.99 Waitrose 4.2
Ancieno Grand Reserva. Bodegas Navalon 2009 Tempranillo 13.0% Valdepenas Spain £7.99 J Lewis 3.8
Villa Mues. Albiza Bodega 2018 Tempranillo 13.0% Rioja Spain £8.30 Bottle Apostle 2.3

January: This month WA1 chose wines of the following grape varieties: Merlot & Airén, apparently the world's 2nd & 3rd most popular grape varieties (by acreage). The Airén grape is largely found in Spain and is mostly used for the production of brandy. However two bottles of wine including Airen had been found. And although it looked at one point as if we might have three bottles of the same Merlot, in the end we had three different ones.

Country Region Year Alcohol Content Rating
Spain Alicante 2018 11.5% 3.4
Spain Alicante 2017 13.5% 3.8
Chile Central Valley 2018 13.0% 3.6
Chile Central Valley 2018 13.5% 3.6
New Zealand Hawkes Bay 2018 13.0% 4.1

WA2: we tasted one Viognier from the New World and one from the Old World. Both were good and refreshing although we preferred the very recent Yalumba from South Australia. Owing to the generosity of one of our members we were able to taste two bottles of Merlot from the Old World and two from the New World. Including the Viognier, this did mean six bottles between the eight of us who were present but we seemed to manage quite well. We liked the organic Emiliana Adobe Reserva from Chile.

NAME Year Price Grape Variety Country/Region Vendor Rating
Yalumba Y Series 2019 £8.50 Viognier South Australia Morrisons 3.5
Laurent Miguel Vendage Nocturnes 2018 £9.39 Viognier Southern France Languedoc Waitrose 3.1
Emeliana Adobe Reserva Organic 2017 £11.50 Merlot Chile Rapel Valley Highbury Vintners 3.0
Villa Maria Private Bin  2018 £8.99 Merlot New Zealand Waitrose 2.5
Calvet Limited Release 2018 £7.75 Merlot Bordeaux France Coop 1.9
Sous Le Soleil du Midi 2018 £5.99 Merlot France Waitrose 2.4

December: we had a 'Christmas bash'. We went to the Canonbury Tavern for a good evening of wine, food and social company. While members had to buy a place we used our surplus from previous months to cover the costs of the evening. All seemed to enjoy the evening, even if it was a bit noisy.

November: This month WA1 chose wines from the Loire region. See our selection and ratings here.

  • Grand Ballon, Rose, Touraine, 12.5%, 2018, Waitrose, £8.90, 3.40
  • Muscadet — Sèvre & Maine Sur Lie Domaine de la Chauvinière, 12%, 2018, Sainsbury's, £8.00, 3.50
  • Muscadet — Sèvre & Maine Sur Lie, 12%, 2018, Highbury Vintners, £11.00, 3.50
  • Champteloup Sauvignon Blanc, Touraine, 12.5%, 2018, Waitrose, ??, 4.00
  • Hubert Brochard Sancerre, Sauvignon Blanc, 13%, 2018, Waitrose, £13.99, 3.80

WA2 this month had white and red CdR and CdR Village wines from Southern Rhone and a Croze Hermitage from Northern Rhone. These gave us a good indication of the basic wines of the region. We were sorry that price prevented us from tasting some of the better wines of the region such as Chateauneuf du Pape, Hermitage, St Joseph, Cote Rotie. Our ratings on wines sampled were:

  • CDR Blanc, Gabriel Meffre, 13%, 2018, £9.99, Blend, S Rhone, Waitrose, 3.8
  • CDR Villages, St Amant le Tabardonne, 13.5%, 2016, £14.99, Viognier, S Rhone, Waitrose, 3.2
  • CDR Organic, Gabrel Meffre, 13.5%, 2018, £9.99, Blend Syrah, Grenache, S Rhone, Waitrose, 2.9
  • CDR Village, Jean Lucas, 13.5%, 2017, £9.00, Cairenne, S Rhone, Majestic, 2.8
  • Croze Hermitage 3 Lys, Cave du Thain, 14%, 2018, £10, Syrah, N Rhone, Sainsbury's, 3.1

October: this month WA1 chose Pinot Grigio & Gamay grape variety wines.

The Favourite — a Fleurie 13% from the terroir de la  La Chapel des Bois — Arnaud Aucoeur, bought in a French supermarket (Carrefour) for £7.50 and apparently available online here for £10-11 but I couldn't find it. Everybody enjoyed this and scored it 4.5.
We had two bottles of Maison Jean Lorton Beaujolais 2017 13%. Also enjoyed but scored about 4.2; from Majestic. Price £11.49 or £9.49 as a mixed six.

Oyster Bay Pinot Gris 2018. Hawkes Bay New Zealand 12.5%. OK but the lowest score 3.5. Not sure about retailer but it's in Sainsbury's for £8.50.
The Ned Pint Grigio 2018 Marlborough New Zealand 14% This was a very pale pink and enjoyed by all and scored 4.2. It cost £8.99.

WA2 chose Loire Wines:  general notes can be viewed here. We tasted a wide and quite representative selection of wines. Muscadet Sur Lie from the North near Nantes and the Atlantic Coast to Sancerre South East of Orleans in Central France, with Vouvray, Chinon and Touraine in between. The wines were all of good quality and our ratings clustered between 3.3 and 3.5. Our favourite was probably Vouvray Pierre Chenier 2018 — somewhat sweet but very good and with a light gold colour — from Sainsburys £8. A Sancerre Terre Brune by Calvet was also well received but expensive at £16.45 from Waitrose. A Champteloup Muscadet Sur Lie was interesting, being aged on the lees. £8.79 Waitrose. We tasted two reds: according to the Times, wines from the Cabernet Franc grape are now fashionable to bring to dinner. We had a Chinon Le Temp de Cerises (Wine Society £8.15) which was fruity and well balanced but not particularly special. Finally a Touraine Gamay — a pleasant light Summer wine quite highly rated by Vivino at 3.8 (Wine Society ££8.15).

this month WA1 chose to sample Sauvignon Blanc & Pinot Noir grape varieties. General notes on these are available here (for Sauvignon Blanc) and here (for Pinot Noir). Wines tasted (with our ratings) were:

  • Pinot Noir,  El Viejo del Valle, 2017, 13%, Highbury Vintners, 3.5
  • Pinot Noir, French, Olivier Dubois, 12.5%, Waitrose, 4.2
  • Pinot Noir, Australian, 'Last Batch', 12.5%, Waitrose, 2.8
  • California, Pinot Noir, 2016, 14%, 3.9
  • Sauvignon and Picpoul, French, 12%, 2017, Majestic, 3.8
  • Sauvignon Blanc, Goldwater, 12.5%, NZ, Majestic, 3.2

WA2 were tasting Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir. You can find the general notes for Pinot Grigio here. The specific wines chosen and tasted were:

  • The Ned Pinot Grigio, Marisco, 14%, 2018, £10.99, Pinot Grigio, New Zealand-Marlborough, Maj., 3.7
  • Pinot Gris Kuhlman-Platz, 12.5%, 2018, £9.99, Pinot Gris, Alsace, France, Majestic, 3.2
  • Alluria Organic Pinot Grigio, 11.5%, 2018, £7.99, Pinot Grigio, Sicily, Italy, Majestic, 2.3
  • Folie a Deux Pinot Noir, 14%, 2017, £9.90, Pinot Noir, California-Sonoma Coast, Waitrose Online, 3.3
  • Pinot Noir Mme Claude Parmentier, 12.5%, 2018, £8.69, Pinot Noir, France, Waitrose, 3.5

August: for this month we decided that, rather than select a country or region, we'd select a wine variety (or two). Therefore WA1 picked Savignon Blanc and Shiraz and WA2 picked Pinot Grigio and Shiraz.

For WA1: On the day the wine brought and sampled was only one Sauvignon Blance and five Shiraz, so we couldn't do any comparsion on the white but we did get a good range on the reds. These were two French, one Australian, one New Zealand, one Bulgarian and one Chilean. See below for the specifics and our scores for those wines tasted.
Also you can see general notes prepared on these varieties here (Sau. Blanc) & here (Shiraz) .

  • Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand, 4.0
  • Domaine Les Yeuses, Syrah Les Epices, 2016, France, 3.6
  • Bulgarian Shiraz, Zagreus St. Dimitar 2017, 3.9
  • Casillero del Diablo Shiraz, Chile, 3.0
  • McGuigan — Founder's Series — Barossa Valley Shiraz 2016, 4.4
  • Shiraz, La Croix du Pin, Pays D'Oc, 3.0

Wines tasted at WA2 this month were as follows (with a rating mark out of 5):

  • 120 Riserva Especial, 2018, £8.99, Sauvignon Blanc, Chile/Central Valley, Majestic, 3.1
  • Chanteloupe Sauvignon Blanc, 2018, £9.99, Sauvignon Blanc, France/Loire, Waitrose, 2.7
  • Angels Share Two Hands, 2018, £17.99, Shiraz, Australia/Mclaren Vale, Majestic, 4.1
  • False Bay Old School, 2018, £9.00, Syrah, South Africa, Highbury Vintners, 3.8
  • Les 3 Lys Crozes Hermitage, 2017, £10.00, Syrah, France/Croze Hermitage, Sainsburys, 3.6

July, Australian: general wine notes of the area can be viewed here.  Wines tasted at WA1 this month were as follows (with a rating mark out of 5):

  • The Listening Station, Chardonnay, Victoria, 4.5, wine tasting notes here 
  • Viognier, Organic, Yalumba, South Australia, 4.2, wine tasting notes here 
  • Morala, Grenache. South Australia, 4.0, wine tasting notes here 
  • Jim Barry Cover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 Coonawarra, 4.6
  • Shiraz, 2017, South Australia, 4.6, wine tasting notes here

Wines tasted at WA2 this month were as follows (with a rating mark out of 5):                                     

  • d'Arenburg McLaren Vale SR, £9.45, 2017, Riesling + Sauvignon, 3.4, notes here
  • Watervale Clare Valley Co. Riesling, £10.99, 2018, Riesling, 4.2, notes here               
  • Baily & Baily Adelaide Hills, £8.99, 2017, Pinot Noir, 3.7, notes here                 
  • Parker Favourite Son Cab. Sauv., £8.99, 2016, Cabernet, 4.0, notes here                              
  • Atkins Farm McLaren Vale Shiraz, £9.99, 2017, Shiraz, 3.9, notes here   

At Highbury VintnersJune, various, blind tasting at Highbury Vintners: we had our special outing to a local wine shop in June. 19 of us from our two wine appreciation groups enjoyed sampling four grape varieties, two wines of each — one new world, one old world. All served blind — with some cheese and salamis provided. I think most of us were embarrassed about our lack of knowledge, so most of our answers were just (educated?) guesses. However it was great fun and no one cared how we did. Our two guides from the shop were very helpful, considerate and knowledgable. For a bit of extra fun our efforts were scored and a prize given to the incredulous winner! 

May, German: general wine notes of the area can be viewed here.  Wines tasted at WA1 this month were as follows (with a rating mark out of 5). Wine tasting notes can be viewed here.

  • Waitrose Dry German Riesling, Mosel, 3.6
  • Loosen Bros 2017 Grey Slate Riesling, Mosel, 4.0
  • Weisser Burgunder, Pinot Blanc, Baden, 2017, 4.0
  • Dominik Meyer, Pinot Blanc, Pfalz, 2017, 3.6
  • Bender, Pinot Noir, Pfalz, 3.2

Portuguese winesApril, Portuguese: Wines tasted at WA2 this month were as follows (with a rating mark out of 5). General wine notes of the area can be viewed here. Wine tasting notes can be viewed here.

  • Varzea Vinho Verde, £7.99, 2018 Vinho Verde, 3.7                   
  • Quinto de Fafide Reserve (Duoro), £10, 2016 Blend of Native Grapes, 3.2                    
  • Maias Branco (Dao)  £12.5, 2017 Malvasia, Encruzado, 4.2, see the notes for this wine here.                    
  • Terrace do Sado (Peninsula de Setubal), £9, 2017 Aragonez and Syrah, 4.2            
  • Qunta de Noval LBV Port (Duoro)£12, 2004 Blend of Native Grapes 3.9 

PorugueseApril, Portuguese: General notes on Portugal available here.
Wines tasted at WA1 this month were as follows:

  • Planalto White Reserva 2017 Douro. See tasting notes here.
  • The Wine Foundry Avesso, Vinho Verde. See tasting notes here.
  • Red, Quinta de Fafide. See tasting notes here soon.
  • ‘Ciconia’, Aragonez grape, from Alentejano. See tasting notes here.
  • Madeira, Sainsbury's own supply. See tasting notes here soon.

March, New Zealand: General notes on New Zealand available here.
Wines tasted at WA2 this month were as follows (with a 'liked' rating of 1 to 5):

  • Oyster Bay Chardonnay 2017 (2.8). See tasting note here.
  • Black Cottage Pinot Gris 2018 (3.6).
  • Mud House Sauvignon Blanc 2018 (3.5). See tasting note here.
  • Ara Pinot Noir 2018 (2.4). See tasting note here.
  • Villa Maria Merlot 2017 (3.0). See tasting note here.

Wines tasted at WA1 this month were as follows:

  • The Ned, Sauvignon Blanc, 2018. See tasting note here.
  • The Ned, Pinot Grigio, 2018. See tasting note here.
  • Ara, Pinot Gris. See tasting note here.
  • Jackson Estate Homestead, 2017, Pinot Noir (Marlborough).

February, Chilean wines: this month it was Chilean wines that we studied and sampled. At WA1 (Wine Appreciation Group 1) we had one white, three reds, and a dessert wine. General notes are here. Wines were as follows with links to the notes:

  • Errazuriz Estate Sauvignon Blanc, here
  • Pinot Noir, here
  • Pintao 2016 Carmenere from the Colchagua Valley, here
  • Diablo Red Valle del Maule 
  • Vistamar, Moscatel, Limari Valley, 2016, here

At WA2 the wines reviewed were:

  • Cono Sur 2016 Sauvignon Blanc Casablanca Valley
  • Tierra de las Picos Merlot 2018 Central Valley
  • Bodegas Volcanes Carmenere 2017 Rapel Valley
  • MontGras Carmenere 2018 Valle de Colchagua
  • Santa Rita Merlot 2017 Central Valley

January, Burgundy: we sampled three whites and two reds. We had to relax the price cap for the wines from region, so they drifted up to a max of £15.00 a bottle. But one of the whites was obtained for £8.99. To find out general information of the area look here. Notes for the specific wines tasted are as follows:

  • Macon-Villages 2016 — Les Pierres Blanches, Chardonnay, here
  • Macon-Villages 2016 — G Bouchon, Chardonnay, here
  • Macon Aze 2017 — Louis Jadot, here
  • Albert Bichot Bourgogne Hautes Cotes de Beaune 2016, here
  • Chorey-les-Beaune 2016, here

Howard's additional information from his personal experiences of the area provided additional entertainment for the evening. There was agreement that the best Pinot Noir is not from France these days but Oregon!

December: we reviewed three white and two red South African wines at this very enjoyable session. There was debate about whether Walker Bay was Western or Eastern Cape WO. All the others were definitely Western Cape designation. See the general notes to explain the regions and general overview of South African wines here. Maybe the most interesting fact about the three whites was their names: Goats Do Roam, Secret Cellar & Primordial Soup, the first two slightly sweet, the last drier. We had interesting discussions on labels as well. It was then time for snacks these included biltong (dried meat), a South African speciality from one of the group and some cheese brought back from the recent iU3A Outing to the Christmas Market in Brussels. We then moved to the reds. The first, with another interesting name Flotsam & Jetsam was a pinotage (a grape variety of South African origin): fruity but quite light. We concluded with a a full bodied red from Marc Kent, Swartland, by the reviews not as good as his first creation The Chocolate Block. And of course a South African evening had to be finished off with some Amarula (a liqueur made from the local marula berry). Thanks again to the researchers for selecting a bottle and sharing the knowledge about that bottle with the rest of us. 

November: this time our session theme was Spanish wines. We had five wines this time, two whites, a rosé and two reds. The whites were both from the Galicia region (NW corner of Spain), both using the Albarino grape variety. They were similar but the 'Medusa' was judged as slightly drier. The rosé was actually from Gran Canaria, hand-carried back by Christine. We couldn't pick up the 'volcanic ash' taste supposed to be left on the palate — mainly as none of us knew what volcanic ash tasted like! The two reds were from the Rioja region (North Central). One was a Gran Reserva: aged for at least two years in oak and three in the bottle; the other was a Reserva: aged for a minimum of three years at least one of which is in oak. Both were fairly full-bodied but not heavy, the Gran Reserva being favoured highest. All our wines chosen were in the top 8% of all world wines — good choices, appreciated by all. An attempt was made to finish the session with a Spanish sweet dessert wine but this (a Manzanilla) turned out to be basically a white sherry, and not a sweet one. Good probably as chilled aperitif, but not as a dessert wine. For some of the research notes from the evening click on: general, white, rosé , rioja1 & rioja2. We also learned that there were more than 10,000 grape varieties around the world! Many tastings yet to follow.....

October: the theme for our first meeting was 'Italian Wines'. To start we had two good bottles of Orvieto from the Umbrai region but with different grape combinations, so this gave us a chance to taste the different effect this can have on the same 'type' of wine. We then moved to the reds and started with a good Nero D'Avola from Sicily, Palermo — full-bodied and quite fruity, enjoyed by all of us. But the star of the night was our 4th, a Tuscan red — Psyco. We were all in raptures about this one. Very deep and full bodied — see the detailed tasting note here. Then we rounded off the evening with some Vin Santo and biscotti. The wine was accompanied by some Italian style nibbles to help absorb some of the alcohol and we had three excellent presentations from Neil, Howard and Julia. All in all we felt this was a good start for this group.


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