WINE APPRECIATION - WA1 & 2

Derek
                      Harwood Chris
                      BulfordThe groups will meet in an informal friendly environment to discuss and enjoy wine together. Better than drinking alone!

Group Coordinators:
Derek Harwood (click to contact) for WA1 and
Chris Bulford (click to contact) for WA2
When

WA1: generally the 2nd Tuesday of each month.
WA2: see below
Where

In a members houses in Islington.

Background
We are starting up a second WA group. Both will broadly follow the following.
Our general operating methods are:

  • Each (WA1 & WA2) will meet once a month (so two sessions per month).
  • Each will meet in members’ house.
  • For WA1 there may 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 (inc the host) at the first 10 for WA1 and 9 for WA2. 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 bottles of wine will be sampled per session
  • A guideline price of up to £10.00 per bottle will be followed.
  • For WA1: 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, including the host, (and not bringing wine) will pay £10 a session to cover all costs. Hosts will get food costs reimbursed. Any under spend of the £10 per bottle of wine limit or suplus per session will be added to group funds and carried forward towards a special evening open to all group members.
  • If a member 'no-shows' for a sigend up session, they may be asked to still pay (as food and drink will have been pre-purchased).
  • 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.

What makes wines different? What is 'Terroir'? There are a few key factors that influence each wine and terrior is the main one. Terroir is influenced by:
  • Weather (climate, location)
  • Exposure to sun (direction the vines are facing)
  • Soil (where it is grown)
  • Altitude
Other factors affecting the balance of a wine are: Grape variety, Method, Age. Each of these can be broken down further but start by trying to use these parameters to tell different wines apart.

Wine Colouring: from our December tutored tasting we were reminded of the different grading in wine colours. These are described slightly differently by different authorities but as a rough guide:
WHITES
WINE TYPE
REDS
WINE TYPE
Straw, Pale Yellow
Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, 
Light Ruby, Ruby
Beaujolais, Pinot Noir, Gamay, Carigan, Cabernet Franc
Yellow, Lemon
Sauvignon Blanc, Vinho Verde
Garnet
Zinfandel/Primitivo, Tempranillo
Pale Gold
Cheni Blanc, Marsanne
Purple
Bordeaux blend, Malbec
Deep Gold, Amber
Chardonnay, Sauternes
Dark Red
Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah

 
Future Sessions
WA1, Tuesday 14 February (sign-up open), 6.30pm: we'll be tasting ?????? you'll have to wait and see as it's going to be a blind tasting to test your skills and senses. Select details will be mailed to those signing up. Hosted by Derek. Details will be sent to those registered for this session.

WA2, Wednesday 22 February (sign-up open), 6.00pm: we'll be tasting a selection of wines chosen by Chris. Hosted by Chris. The next tasting will be along the same lines as January's ie looking at another supermarket’s best buys. Details will be sent to those registered for this session.


Currently you can sign up for both sessions in each month. If we start to get overbooked then we might have to restrict attendance to one session per month per member.

WA2: For the future meetings, these will all be in the fourth week and will be on Tuesdays. Same arrangements; £10 a head for 9 people. The format will be tasting wines under £10 from major supermarkets all of which have been recommended by a newspaper “expert” relatively recently. This will be just for 2023 to see how it goes. I aim to keep a record of the scores and produce a short summary at year end as a bit of fun. Dates for WA2: 1 March, 28 March, 25 April, 23 May, 27 June, 25 July, 22 August, 26 Sept, 24 Oct, 28 Nov.

Our Recent Meetings
WA2, January: at the first meeting of WA2 we sampled five wines recommended by newspaper “experts”. All were from M&S. Having given our views we concluded that the best of the five was the Rioja red; Spain El Duque de Miralta Rioja 2018. As it happens this is one of M&S’s best sellers. The next tasting will be along the same lines looking at another supermarket’s best buys.

WA1, January:
we'd agreed to taste wines from Turkey and Greece but this proved to be a challenge. There was not much available particularly from the major wine sellers. It was the smaller supermarkets on eg Green Lanes that provided supply. This seems partly just the volumes imported to Britain but also apparently current supply chain issues (Brexit again?). However for the four Greek and one Turkish wines provides (two whites, two reds and one dessert wine) provide a good range. We discussed our learnings from the December tutored tasting (colour coding being added to 'Other Information' above) and also the different (current) forms of fermentation vessel. Oak and stainless steel being less popular now, concrete making a come back, and the most popular current trend toward use of amphora (clay vessels). An example of the use of this latter option being seen here: https://closdugravillas.com/nosvins.html

December: for our Christmas social we returned to OAK at Finsbury Park for a tutored wine tasting. We sampled two whites and five reds, all from the New World. The tutoring by Pino was as knowledgeable as last time and delivered just right for our level. Members had to resist moving to Stage 3 immediately (tasting) while Pino took us through Stage 1 (looking) and Stage 2 (smelling) for each wine. We failed most of his exam questions but Denise and Jill still managed to win a prize of a free bottle. Food nibbles were also good. I'm sure we will return.

November:
for this tasting session we studied Romanian and Bulgarian wines. While the research had stated that Romanian and Bulgarian wines are expanding in international market share, they proved difficult to source in Islington. However the 'team' did manage to locate two whites and four reds. Five were Romanian, one red was Bulgarian. They were of good value, being easily under our £10 a bottle limit. Our ratings of the six ranged from 4.0 (for Sorcova Pinot Noir, Waitrose, £9.99) to 3.4 (La Umbra Chardonnay, Waitrose, £5.99).

October:
this month's choice of wines was based on the theme of Australian wines.

September:
we tasted Spanish wines at this session. We started with a dry Manzanilla sherry (La Gitana) which some loved and some weren't so keen on. Then we tried a white Rioja followed by two red Riojas. We ended the evening with another sherry, a sweet one from the same winery (Christmas in a bottle!).

August
: this time we did it as a blind tasting. The theme, as it became apparent, was rosé. The idea was to try to cover, taste, the breadth of rosés available. We were trying to experience the different grape varieties used and countries producing rosés nowadays. We started with a fizzy rosé, then tried four other rosé wines.

July: this time we again sampled some Portuguese wines.

June:
for this session we chose Chilean and Argentinian wines, four Chilean, one Argentinian, two whites, three reds. Some interesting and unusual — the Argentine Malbec was a blend (with the bonarda grape variety); one of the Chilean reds was made from the Carmenere grape — only found nowadays in Chile.

May:
this was an outing to Yield at Newington Green for a tutored tasting. It followed an Italian theme with skin contact an added feature. And if you are thinking 'what's skin contact' see here. We started with a prosecco then the orange, a white and two reds, the last having an alcoholic content of 17%. An interesting range of wines well presented and with hearty discussion between the 20 attending.

April:
we did a blind tasting for this session to consider: "What Affects/Influences a Wine?" As indicated above, there are five main factors. To mix all of these during a blind tasting would have made it too complex so we actually tried to tell between just two of these factors — grape variety and method. The six wines tasted covered two grape varieties, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, and two methods, Old World and New World. Even by trying to limit the range it was surprising the variety of taste even within these common parameters.

March:
South American wines: Two whites (both Chilean) and three reds (two Argentinian, one Chilean). Quite a range of grape and taste but some really good value wines. Lidl wins again with lowest price but good value.

February:
Eastern European wines: While this seemed to create quite a wide range actually all found there was very limited choice in the shops. However, we managed to cover Turkey, Slovakia, Romania and Georgia. While the Georgian artisan red was the most expensive it was rated very poorly by us. On the other hand the Slovakian white ('Krasno') from Majestic achieved the highest score. 

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, an Organica Primitivo and then a French Pinot Noir with the Pinot receiving a slightly higher rating.

December:
this was our Christmas Social at Oaks wine bar in Finsbury Park led by the knowledgeable owner, who had picked one sparkling (a rosé 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. 

November:
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. 

September:
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.

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