‘The German Miracle’: a new angle on the best of German wine

Anne Krebiehl MW

Anne Krebiehl MW gave the Club a night to remember on 25thApril at the Maison Française. This was a night when young winemakers strutted their stuff, when revolution was in the air and when our old notions of German wine were turned upside down – and given a damn good shake.  

With remarkable knowledge of soil, geology, chemistry, winemaking practice and the long – if not always glorious – history of German winemaking, Anne led us on a dramatic trail through new areas and new approaches to German wine. 

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A Tasting of Wines from the Eyrie Vineyard, Oregon USA

Presented by Mark Savage MW

Mark Savage returned to the Club in March 2018 to present a tasting of the wines of the pioneer Oregon viticulturalist, David Lett. Lett founded the Eyrie Vineyard in 1965, which is now run by his son Jason. Mark has been closely involved with the vineyard and the Lett family for forty years, and indeed on David’s death persuaded Jason to ‘keep the faith’ and to ensure he embraced his father’s traditional methods, which indeed he has.

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'Red Squirrels, not Grey Squirrels; rare regional goodies

selected by Nik Darlington, MD Red Squirrel Wines

Nik Darlington made a welcome repeat visit to the Club on 27 February, bringing with him his personal selection from the Red Squirrel list. Nik has had a varied career, a political reporter, business consultant, scuba diving instructor and now wine merchant. He is driven by the determination not to allow the invading ‘grey squirrels’ (the standard ‘international’ grapes) to spread their tentacles and drive out the regional grapes that still cling to a spot in the world’s vineyard areas.

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Chile - the Old New World

presented by Alistair Cooper MW

Ali Cooper’s love affair with Chile (though not necessarily Chilean wines) can be dated back to his fascination with TinTin books as a child but he first went there after graduating with a degree in Modern Languages. Go for a ‘few weeks’ was the plan and he had the aim of getting a job in a vineyard. However, Chilean wine producers looked somewhat askance at a Brit speaking good Spanish who wanted work as a day labourer. Eventually after knocking on sixty or so cellar doors he was offered a job as Export Manager. So he stayed. Three weeks became three years and he came back with a Chilean wife, even better Spanish and a complete fascination with the wine.

Fast forward a few years to the Summertown Wine Café, where many members first met Ali, and then again to his current status as an MW with huge enthusiasm for, and an encyclopaedic knowledge of, Chile and its wines.

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Mountain Wines

presented by Nancy Gilchrist MW

‘Mountain Wines’ was the title and mountain wines we got. Eight fascinating wines from the Alto Adige, Val d’Aosta, Switzerland, the Savoy and Jura. Collectively and individually they were a perfect expression of the Club’s mission: wines you couldn’t or wouldn’t taste on your own account. Our thanks are due not just to our presenter but to the Alto Adige Consorzio which provided many of the wines for free.And we had a perfect guide to these wines. Nancy Gilchrist MW knows the area and knows the wines and presented a compelling case for the importance of the mountain vineyards of the world as climate change takes effect.

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‘Bulles de Luxe’

Blind tasting the best of Grande Marque champagne and sparkling wine

On 19 October 2017, Michael Palij MW hosted a remarkable (and possibly unrepeatable) tasting even by his own spectacular standards at the Cherwell Boathouse. ‘Bulles de Luxe’ was a blind tasting of 24 champagnes and sparkling wines, ranging from a £5 Aldi Prosecco to £150 wines from the very top producers. Think Cristal from Louis Roederer, Dom Pérignon from Moët and Chandon, La Grande Dame from Veuve Clicquot.

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'Sommelier’s Choice'

presented by Gerard Basset MW, MS, OBE

The opening meeting of the Club’s 2017-18 season was a rare treat. Gerard Basset, the much-lauded sommelier and hotelier, presented ‘some out-of-the ordinary wines’ and discoursed on the ‘Role of the Sommelier’. And what better guide to the evolution and intricacies of the sommelier’s skills could there be?

Starting as a kitchen porter, Gerard worked his way up through waiting and serving as a chef in a Michelin-starred restaurant before becoming fascinated with the then little-regarded role of the sommelier. After working at Chewton Glen (the pioneering wine and food hotel on the South coast), he became co-founder and wine partner in the Hotel du Vin group of boutique hotels, which revolutionised the British hotel industry. He now runs the very highly regarded Terra Vina in Hampshire with his wife Nina (who was unfortunately unable to join us for the tasting). At the Hotel du Vin, at Terra Vina and as mentor and judge to succeeding generations of sommeliers he has done more than anyone to raise the status and skill levels of the profession.

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‘The Family of Twelve’ – artisanal wine from New Zealand

presented by Peter McCombie MW

Thanks to the generosity of New Zealand's 'Family of XII' and the down to earth knowledge and presenting skills of Peter McCombie MW the Club enjoyed a remarkable tasting of New Zealand wines.

An almost full house of members gathered at Lady Margaret Hall on 20 March 2017 and was rewarded by a splendid evening.

Much more than a tasting of a dozen fascinating wines, the evening provided a wonderfully precise sketch of New Zealand's short history as a wine-making nation, its regions and soils, its wine-makers and wine personalities - all in ninety minutes. A rare feat indeed.

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Call My Bluff 2017

Michael Palij, Jonathan Pedley and Richard Bampfield go all out to convince us...

The 30 second summary: seven mystery bottles, three Masters of Wine, outrageously straight-faced bluffing, much debate, occasional coin-tossing and much laughter. And some good wine too, thanks to the generosity of our three presenters.

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English Wines – past, present and future

with Sam Lindo

On 24 January 2017, the Club was privileged to spend an evening with Sam Lindo of the Camel Valley vineyards. Privileged not just because Sam is a three-times English Winemaker of the Year and immediate past chair of the UK Vineyard Association but because Camel Valley is a rather special site.

Camel Valley was set up by Sam’s father Bob and his mother Annie in 1989 just above the Camel River in Cornwall. Though they didn’t realise it at the time it was about the best possible spot for a vineyard with the lowest rainfall and the best protection from the sea influence. Unlike most of the UK’s vineyards it’s on loam (a mix of clay, sand and silt) rather than chalky soils. This, according to Sam, makes Camel Valley’s life ‘easier’ but it’s also part of a counter-cultural take on life. They aim for simplicity: pick, crush, press. Let the grapes do the work…

And it’s paid off! Camel Valley has gone head to head with the Champenois in competition and come off best. They won the first of their long list of gold medals in international wine competitions in 2005 up against the best Champagne can offer and have repeated that feat many times since, most notably for their Pinot Noir rosé wines.

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