Call My Bluff - The Return

Richard Bampfield MW, Michael Palij MW & Jonathan Pedley MW

The Oxford Wine Club tasting on 21 January was an evening of bluff and double-bluff. Jonathan Pedley's insistence that (practically) all the wines we tasted were from Morrison's had to be weighed against Michael Palij's assertion that they were (practically) all from his own cellar or those of his most illustrious wine-maker friends, whilst Richard Bampfield played the trust me I'm a trustworthy chap game (to great effect).                                 

Yes, it was round 3 of the Club's occasional Call My Bluff evenings. As always there were tricky decisions to be made. Do you put your faith in psychology or in tasting skills? Do you put your trust in your own tasting skills or do you rely the (apparently) most trustworthy panellist or the less trustworthy?

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Primum Familiae Vini

Christophe Brunet and Christina Torres

This, said Hans Sundin, introducing the Oxford Wine Club’s PFV tasting was going to be ‘amazing’.

He was absolutely right. There have been very very few such tastings in England. Ably and engagingly presented by Christophe Brunet (the PFV’s Ambassador) and Christina Torres we had an extraordinary evening. Twelve wines in total – one from each of the eleven families plus a bonus Pol Roger champagne of the 2000 vintage – and some excellent canapés produced to Christophe’s specifications.

Christina –already a Club ‘star’ after the Torres Family tasting earlier this year – was joined at the top table by Christophe and our President Michael Palij MW (though he had to leave early to take care of his new born daughter). Christophe, a sommelier by training, had first worked for the Torres family coordinating wine and food events worldwide where he got to know Miguel Torres (Christina’s uncle). The PFV owes its origins to a meeting between Miguel and Robert Drouhin of Maison Joseph Drouhin in Burgundy who recognised that multi-generational family businesses such as theirs enjoyed extraordinary advantages but faced special issues. Membership is limited to twelve companies (there are currently eleven) and only those with 100% family ownership can qualify. Hence, as Christophe explained, early members such as Mondavi and Jaboulet are now out of the PFV.

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Georgian Wines

Chris Bowling

Chris Bowling is known to many as the founder of this year's successful Oxford Wine Fair - but he's also founder of the Georgian Wine Society (, dedicated to searching out the best of Georgian wine and making it available to drinkers in the UK. The introduction promised tales of personal derring-do but what Chris' fascinating presentation made clear was that behind the marketing line of 'Seven Thousand Years of Continuous Vintages' and the world's oldest (perhaps the world's original) wine culture lies a somewhat hazardous life for Georgian wine-growers and wine-lovers.

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Champagne Pol Roger

Cassidy Dart

"Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right." - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Members were delighted to welcome Cassidy Dart from Pol Roger, who had come along to Lady Margaret Hall for the evening to present to us a selection of Pol Roger’s Champagnes.

Pol Roger is famously known as being Winston Churchill's favourite Champagne. Churchill apparently prized Champagne above all other drinks, and Pol Roger above all other Champagnes. He famously had a long friendship with Odette Pol Roger, and every year on his birthday she would send him a case of vintage Champagne. Pol Roger now name their prestige cuvee after him -  Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill.

Pol Roger is an independent and relatively small Champagne house, producing around 1.5 million bottles a year (compare that for example to Moet & Chandon’s 26 million bottles a year). Nonetheless it is a well-known brand and the wines it produces are typically highly rated.  

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Decanter's Gold Award Winners

Christelle Guibert

Members were delighted to welcome Christelle Guibert, Director of Tastings at Decanter, to a tasting befitting the end of the OWC events calendar after another successful year. Christelle’s visit was particularly timely, following announcement of the Decanter Trophy award-winners at a glittering ceremony in London on 24 June.

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Californian Wines

David Massarella

David Massarella, of Fine & Rare, led us through our first wholly Californian tasting for six years when we tasted wines across a wide price spectrum from affordable wines to a Cabernet Sauvignon from the iconic Napa Valley vineyard of Stag’s Leap, which produced the wine that won the original Judgement of Paris tasting. We tasted wines from Anderson Valley in the north to Santa Barbara in the south.

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Desert Island Wines

Rt. Hon. David Mellor QC & Nick Clark

Members were delighted to welcome former cabinet minister Rt. Hon. David Mellor QC to lead this evening’s tasting. Accompanying him were his partner Penny Lyttelton and Nick Clark of wine merchant Haynes Hanson & Clark.

David had brought with him nine of his favourite wines to share with us – his desert island wines - and his and Nick’s commentary on the wines (and other matters) made for a highly entertaining evening.

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Pedro Ximenez: Wine Legend Come to Life

Michael Palij MW & Antonio Sorgato

It was the year that saw the first non-stop flight from London to Paris, the year that saw the launch of the Titanic – and the end of the last Chinese Imperial Dynasty. It was 1911 and now 33 members of the Oxford Wine Club can say they’ve drunk wine over 100 years old. We owed this extraordinary opportunity to Michael Palij MW and to Antonio Sorgato of Toro Albalá.

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The Judgement of Oxford: Part I

Jasper Morris MW

Speaking to a packed house of OWC members only – the evening was a sell-out – it was with obvious pleasure that Chairman Hans Sundin welcomed Jasper Morris back to the Club, noting that, after Club founder Michael Palij, Jasper has been the most frequent presenter at Club events over the years.

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Torres Family Wines

Cristina Torres

Cristina Torres represents the fifth generation of Torres Family winemakers. The original Torres y Compañia was founded in Penedès in 1870, and more than 150 years later Cristina’s uncle, Miguel A Torres, presides over Torres Spain and his son, Miguel Torres Maczassek, runs the winery founded by his father in Chile. Cristina’s mother, Marimar, moved to California in 1975 as ambassador for Torres wines, and planted her own vineyards in Russian River and Sonoma, ‘exporting’ the Torres legacy of fine wines to California. She founded her own Catalan-style Marimar Estate winery in Sonoma in 1992. The Torres family now operates on three ‘continents’ – Spain, Chile and California – and the wines presented at the Tasting represent some of the best of the family’s wines from all three countries. Cristina was raised in the family tradition by her mother in California. She studied economics in the U.S. before moving to Paris to pursue a career in fashion. Eventually she was drawn back into the wine business, and is now based in London and working with Torres’ UK Distributor John E. Fells. There she promotes the family brand by presenting Torres wines at events and tastings and marketing the Torres international portfolio to Fells’ trade customers.

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