‘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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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 www.theliberatorwine.com) 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 drinkrhone.com. 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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