Rioja vs Ribera - Tempranillo one: temperance nil

presented by Pierre Mansour

Pierre Mansour gave a masterclass on Rioja and Ribera del Duero to a full hall at St Peter’s on Monday evening. As anticipated, the two wine regions both oozed class, but their important differences were very apparent and moreover, well explained by Pierre. Given the chill, I dare say that the red-leaning (OWC has no political affiliation) tasting was welcome in that it was full of winter warmers

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Decanter's Gold Award Winners 2016

Christelle Guibert

Members were delighted to again welcome Christelle Guibert, Director of Tastings at Decanter, to a tasting befitting the end of the OWC events calendar after another successful year.

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Wines of Beaujolais

Jasper Morris MW

After possibly our most rapid AGM ever, the real business of wine tasting got underway.  Jasper is BBRs’ Burgundy expert and Beaujolais effectively falls within the remit.  Beaujolais also happens to be something that Jasper is very keen on. In fact it is one of his regular drinking wines for home and his cellar has a very ample selection of wines, many with some significant age.

Aged Beaujolais at first sight seems to be something of an anachronism. However what we are looking at today is the village Crus, and not the Beaujolais Nouveau or even the Beaujolais Village that many will remember from the past. And these wines are indeed something quite different as we were all about to find out.

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New Wave South African Wines

Richard Kelley MW

This was Richard’s sixth visit to the Oxford Wine Club, but who’s counting?  When he last presented South Africa to us in 2012, his alter ego, Rick, The Wine Liberator (see was in its infancy.

2016 sees the Liberator project going from strength to strength, with his Episode Six recently receiving the ultimate endorsement of being Jancis Robinson’s wine of the week, and Richard returning to talk about the New Wave of South African wines.

Richard’s interest in South Africa began when his MW dissertation took him there in 1993.  Back then, everything was changing with the end of apartheid and Nelson Mandela poised to become South Africa's first black president.  This set the scene for our wines – all, bar the first producer featured, had set up in the post apartheid era.

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The Expert’s Rhône

John Livingstone-Learmonth

John Livingstone-Learmonth first visited the Rhône in 1973, and has since dedicated most of his life to writing and talking about the region’s wines - describing himself as ‘the oldest rocker in town’ in his LinkedIn profile. He is the author of four books on the Rhône, including The Wines of the Northern Rhône, which won the Louis Roederer International Book Prize in 2006, and runs the website He is a Chevalier de l’Ordre du Mérite Agricole and an honorary citizen of the village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. 

John explained his belief that balance, rather than intensity or concentration, is the quality that makes for great wines. Wines chosen for the tasting were made by young winemakers, and all reflected the passion, commitment and sureness of touch of their creators in their ‘hand-made’ quality. 

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The Wines of Alsace

presented by Caroline Furstoss, ‘Sommelière de l’Année 2014’

A remarkable tasting with a remarkable presenter … and some nice food too.

The Club was honoured to host Caroline Furstoss, native of Alsace, ‘Sommelière de l’Année’ in 2014, columnist for the Revue du Vin de France and one of the few experts on the wines of her native region. In France, Caroline explained, it’s often difficult to get the French to take the wines of Alsace seriously. All those Germanic names, all those ‘lieux-dits’ to remember. However, a full house at Lady Margaret Hall on 24 February 2016 was very receptive.

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Sparkling Wines Masterclass

Richard Bampfield MW

Well the evening started with a resounding pop, if not a bang! A capacity crowd were presented with the first flight of four sparkling wines that were selected for their typicity and quality. After some table based discussions Richard set proceedings in motion with the first challenge – what was wine number 1?

The majority of members and guests correctly identified the first wine as a Prosecco and discussions then changed to why this was a good example of Prosecco and what you should look out for in wine of this type.  It was generally considered that this wine was fruity and fresh and easy to drink.  Slightly off-dry, the wine was well balanced and had a good finish, if not the most complex of sparkling wines. The typical “nose” of pears was quite prevalent and another good identifier of a Prosecco.  What people were surprised about was the fine bubbles which are not unusual for good quality Prosecco (typically people assume the tank method results in coarse, unintegrated bubbles).  What was however noticed was that the wine did go flat more quickly than the other three in this flight, which were all traditional method.

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The wines of Saint Emilion

Madame Nicole Roskam-Brunot and Dr. Gerald Sacks

The November tasting provided welcome respite from the late Autumn weather with a classic St. Emilion vertical tasting! It was hosted by Dr. Gerald Sacks (an OWC member) and Madame Nicole Roskam-Brunot, of Chateau Cantenac – a Grand Cru St. Emilion property. Mme Roskam-Brunot is owner of the chateau and a member of the Jurade of St. Emilion (one of the first 5 women Jurats, as they are known [translation: judge]). The Jurade dates from 1199, having been incorporated by a charter from King John of England (which covered this part of France at that time), and granted the area a level of autonomy. King John’s likely rationale however, was to obtain a supply of good wine for his court! The Jurade originally governed the city, including civic, legal and administrative affairs (which included the quality of the wine!), even after the area became French sovereignty in the 15th century, until shortly after the French revolution. It was revived in 1948 by growers to raise the profile of wines of the area, and continues to play a ceremonial role in celebrating events in the wine calendar.

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The Wines of Argentina

Lee Isaacs
The Club’s October tasting featured Lee Isaacs presenting wines of a country that he is passionate about. Married to an Argentinian (he says that leaves him little choice about his taste for wines of Argentine), he visits the country regularly and has explored the wine regions from Salta in the north to Patagonia in the south.

The Argentine wine industry goes back to the Conquistadores (although it’s the Italians who’ve had most influence on the wines in the last hundred years). The first commercial vineyard was established in 1557 and its purpose (in a nutshell) seems to have been to provide wine to keep the native populations too sozzled to protest at the Spanish occupation. That focus on quasi-industrial production has left its mark on Argentinian wines which have only started to explore variety and terroir in any serious way in the last decade. Fifty years ago the annual consumption was 90 litres per capita (Britain at the same point was drinking 3 litres per head).

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Photographing the world of wine

Tim Atkin MW

‘The most unjoblike job in the world’ was how one friend of Tim’s describes his profession as wine writer and photographer. His list of awards as a wine communicator covers pretty much every year since 1988 and embraces books, articles, a prize-wining website and the editorship of Harper’s for three years. Listening to Tim, one might have thought that success was a matter of serendipity and the occasional early rising. By the end of the evening, the photographers and artists in the audience were shaking their heads in disagreement. He trained his eye by collecting photographs before channeling his artist mother to create his own pictures.

This selection of 19 photographs from the world of wine was accompanied by wines linked to the places and people...

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