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

WA1: the 2nd Tuesday of each month.
WA2: the 4th week of each month (varying day of the week).

In a members houses in Islington.

We have now started 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 (exc the host) at the first nine. 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 provenance 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 underspend of the £10 per bottle of wine limit or surplus 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 signed 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.

WA2: these will all be in the fourth week of each month (with a varying day of the week). Same arrangements as WA1: £10 a head for nine other people. The format will be tasting wines under £10 from major supermarkets all of which have been recommended by a newspaper “expert” relatively recently. 

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.

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:
Straw, Pale Yellow
Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, 
Light Ruby, Ruby
Beaujolais, Pinot Noir, Gamay, Carigan, Cabernet Franc
Yellow, Lemon
Sauvignon Blanc, Vinho Verde, Trebbiano
Zinfandel/Primitivo, Tempranillo
Pale Gold
Cheni Blanc, Marsanne
Purple/Dark Purple
Bordeaux blend, Malbec
Deep Gold, Amber
Chardonnay, Sauternes
Dark Red
Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah

If you want to look up details of a grape variety or type this is a good site: Wine Folly

Future Sessions
WA1, Tuesday 9 April, 6.30pm (sign-up open): for this session we'll be tasting 'Favourites'.

WA2, Tuesday 23 April, 6.30pm
(sign-up open): Coordinator will pick the theme and the wines
(future dates: Tuesday 28 May, Tuesday 25 June)

Our Recent Meeting
WA1, March: for this session we tasted organic wines. We had a very good evening and the organic wines were generally well received. Unfortunately nobody managed to get the Vivino scores app working so we couldn't compare those to our scores.

WA1, February:
the theme for this session was to be Romanian or Bulgarian wines. However, we ended up with four Romanian (and one French). No Bulgarian. Possibly reflecting, although both countries have approximately the same acreage under vine, the difference in exported quantities. Three of the wines were provided by the same winery. The highest scoring of the evening was the first red (Solomar from Majestic) provided by Chris M.

WA1, January:
we started the new year with a continuation from the December tutored wine tasting by selecting Portuguese wines. As always two whites and three reds, but closing with some of the port tasted at the December session. Different views on each but the preferred white was the Tejo Falcoaria from Sainsbury's and for the red, the Tejo Sardine Submarine from Waitrose. 

WA1, December:
this was our Christmas Social and we returned to OAK at Finsbury Park, this time to taste some Portuguese wines, two whites, two reds and a port. The wine agent explained to us each wine and how he felt: while Portuguese wine quality was continuing to improve, they were still undervalued. The wines he had selected were all small production with the younger generation of wine makers all returning to the traditional wine-making methods of their forefathers.

WA2 finished the year in November on a high note,
or should that be a bubbly note — tasting six “fizzes”, just in time for the festive period of course. It was interesting to appreciate that there are now many more sparkling wines on the market with the expectation of more on the way. The £10 per bottle price was a bit tricky to achieve so some festive licence was taken with selection price. Naturally we had to taste the UK’s biggest champagne seller. Aldi’s Monsigny. And yes we did give it our highest rating of the six!  Then someone pointed out that this might have something to do with it being the last bottle of the evening!

WA1, November:
the theme was 'English'. With a kind donation from Jill, we actually had six wines to sample. Four whites and two reds. We had to up our target price this time to £15.00 a bottle and even that was a challenge. Were any of them worth the extra? We enjoyed some of the whites and one of the reds, but not necessarily more than a £10 a bottle world wine. However it was interesting to learn about the types of grape used to suit northern climes, necessary even with global warming.

WA1, October:
the theme was 'Antipodean'. Kate hosted this session. There was one New Zealand wine (Villa Maria) but the others chosen were all Australian (including Chateau Tanunda, Barossa Riverland, Grant Burge Barossa Ink and Yalumba Galway), the last two giving us a chance to compare two Shiraz's.

WA2, September:
we have come to the end of our series of tastings of wines from Islington’s eight major supermarkets. All the wines had been separately recommended by wines writers in the national newspapers. One of the ideas was to see if pleasing tasting wines could be found, and be easily accessible from these stores in Islington, within our £10 per bottle ceiling. We were also able to compare our scores against the scores recorded on the Vivino wine app.

Of the 40 plus wines tasted, there was not always a direct correlation between price and our scoring of these wines. In fact one of the most popular was under £5! More generally and perhaps unsurprisingly, red wines tended to score  higher generally than whites. The search for good whites under £10 per bottle continues. Nonetheless we did find two excellent drinking whites from Sainsbury’s; a store which does not get many recommendations even though it has a large wine selection. Interestingly we usually scored in the same range as Vivino.

WA1, September:
the theme for this session was 'South America'. One Argentinian and four Chilean but the Chilean ones were from different locations and hence were in temperate growing areas. Some international grape varieties but the local Carmenere proved interesting.

WA1, August: this time we had a wide open blind tasting — no particular theme. Therefore we sampled a wide variety of wines but considering the breadth of world wines, four out of the five chosen were old world: three French, one Italian, the fifth being an Argentinian Malbec. The scores we gave the wines were very similar, but the hit from the evening was the Picpoul De Pinet from Majestic.

WA1, July: following the tutored wine tasting of Italian wines, we continued with the same theme and Christine hosting. Two whites and three reds from all over Italy. The La Masseria Del Borgo, Primitivo DOP from Sainsbury’s at £9 (on offer, normally £12) were the highest group scoring (4.315, such precision). Was this due to value for money or pure taste?

WA1 & WA2 'Summer Social' at OAK in Finsbury Park:
this was a tutored tasting of 5 Italian wines. We (22 of us) started with a Prosecco, then a white, two reds and a dessert wine. Pino, our host for the evening, took us through each with explaination of the 4 Steps for tasting a wine. Some were keen to just get on to Step 4 — drink the wine! — but hopefully some of his knowledge on all the steps rubbed off on us.

WA2, May:
we continued our exploration of wines purchased in Islington’s’ supermarkets at our last two tastings. In April they came from the up-and-coming Lidl and in May the much longer established Co-op. Interestingly in April despite there being many Chianti offerings, the Chianti from Lidl was our choice, convincingly, scoring much higher than Vivino and its price a miserly £4.99. In May it was much closer. Of the four recommended wines from the Co-op, we agreed with the reviewer’s suggestion that a Grenache from Spain was “ridiculously good value”. We later found out that this meant £5.75. So we are continuing our hunt for good wines at very competitive prices.

WA1, May:
for this session we tasted 2 'fizzies' and then 3 Merlots. The fizzies were a Prosecco and an Australian Sparking (Shiraz) Wine. The red bubbly was not enjoyed, possibly too much of a novelty. The 3 Merlots were very similar to each other because of the same grape and also the 'new world' style.

WA2, April:
see May report.

WA1, April:
we tasted two grape varieties — Trebbiano and Tempranillo (9th and 4th in 'popularity' respectively). We had tasted these previously in February 2020 but with different wines chosen. As usual, there was a range of views, of ratings, but none were outstanding. However all enjoyed the banter and the very sociable evening.

WA2, March:
at our March meeting we continued our tasting of recommended wine selections from the major supermarkets, this time from Tesco. Three of the five wines sampled were from Tesco’s Finest range. This is their attempt to give some of their wines a more exclusive image. However they were all within our £10 maximum price and one was even at £4.25! We finally selected A Chilean Carmenere at the respectable price of £8.00. In case you ask, the £4.25 was an Italian Trebbiano white which had achieved an average score of 3.4 from 5.0 on Vivino; we gave it 2.8.

March 2023WA1 March:
we covered a range of 'best of the best' at this session. Four of the wines that we'd scored highest on previous tasting. We gave 3.8 to Yalumba Y series brought by Chris. But she got the Sauvignon Blanc not the Viognier. We gave 3.92 to Krasno from Slovenia, brought by Dianne. This one was the same as billed. Sauvignon Blanc and Ribolla. We gave it virtually the same score as  originally. We gave 3.5 to Wendy’s Pinot Noir Romanian wine, Sorcova. We gave 4.1 to Sally’s wine — 120 Reserva Special, Carmeniere 2020 Santa Rita which was not on the list.
We all had a lovely time.

WA1, February: we did a blind tasting of two Chardonnays and three Cabernet Sauvignons, covering old world production versus new world. The main challenge was to identify the grape variety. At least one of the group did get it right and from the first bottle (well done Dianne and Lesley). As always great company, great fun and a bit of learning! 

A group meetingWA2, 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:

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.

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).

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

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!).

: 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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. 

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.

site designed by Gill Hopkins 
logo designed Tattersal Hammarling & Silk
registered charity number 1157067