Vintage Club Autumn/Winter Meeting

Location: A cottage in Tawstock (near Barnstaple), Devon

Date: 24th November 2001


Notes by: Gareth

Those present:

Philippa and Guy Nason, Ed and Chris Kay, Mark Masento, Roger Jardine, Steve Mills, Cath Shafto, Quentin Lambert, Jack Warren, Gareth Barker.




The Wines

1.      Gareth – white sparkling

 Steve is first to offer “It reminds me of Charles Heidseck”, and Philippa agrees. Everyone assumes Champagne, Ed commenting that it’s not acidic enough to be Veuve Clicquot. Thoughts turn to the year. “I’ve never had a memorable year so I’d bring a non-vintage Champagne!” moans Roger sarcastically. Steve suggests 1996, while Ed tries a different approach - guessing the year Gareth joined the VC.

And it’s Champagne Billecart-Salmon NV Special 2000 Release (170FF). All eyes turn to Quentin, who didn’t identify his favourite Champagne.


2.      Jack – white

It’s at just the right temperature, not too cold, according to Ed. Ed’s very particular views on wine serving temperatures are now discussed. Comments include pineapple, 5-Alive, exotic fruit salad, and integrated oak. “Not creamy enough for Chardonnay” remarks Ed, and suggests Marsanne. Others move onto white Burgundy, and New Zealand is also suggested.

It turns out to be Cloudy Bay Chardonnay 1999, Marlborough, New Zealand (£16)


3.      Roger – white

Roger bringing a white wine! Is this the real Roger, or an impostor! Conversation now takes a strange turn to the subject of beards, and the possibility of Roger growing a goatie (don’t do it, Roger!). Roger’s wine is not as big as he envisaged, and he thinks it’s been usurped, or ‘uslurped’(sic), by the previous wine. It has a similar nose though, and most people decide on Old World Chardonnay. Ed goes for Meursault. Is Roger playing mind games?

Well it’s Les Ensigneurs Puligny-Montrachet 1998 (£23)


4.      Mark – white

Mark’s wine is poured from a white bottle – is there a clue here? “Orangey, pineapplish” chips in Steve. Most people agree it has a Germanic like nose. On the palate it’s off-dry and sappy. There now follows the traditional chemistry lesson that takes place at about this stage of a VC tasting, courtesy of Mark and Steve. “Ethyl butylrates make good esters” enthuses Mark. He then confuses us all by stating that wine isn’t German. Everyone generally agrees a certain lack of complexity and sugariness point to a less expensive wine. We finally home in on a region, Guy suggesting Jurancon.

And yes, it’s Domaine Bellegrade Jurancon 1998 – a memorable year for Mark as he can’t think of anything to make it memorable!


5.      Steve – white

Ed proceeds by calling Steve a ‘stingy git’ for supposedly not bringing along a particular German wine (Steve, stingy, and wine are not words usually associated with each other!). An esoteric comparison between Penfolds Grange and Radiohead then ensues. Everyone assumes the wine is German. “It’s a Mosel!” Ed exclaims, and Mark adds “Spatlese? 93?” Ed thinks it’s much younger.

We get something right, but the wine is Selbach-Oster Auslese 1990, Mosel (48DM)


6.      Quentin – red

Chris immediately detects Pinot Noir. Positive comments abound – jammy, strawberries, very good fruit. Most people think it’s a New World Pinot, but Ed suggests it could be a Burgundy. Everyone is stunned when Quentin announces that it’s English!

The details are Chapel Down Pinot Noir 1999, and most agree it’s the best English red they’ve tasted.


7.      Mark – red

Guy detects tobacco, and Quentin adds green peppers. The wine looks brown and aged, and Ed thinks a lot of the fruit has dropped out. “It’s still quite closed” reckons Philippa, Roger suggesting that it’ll be nicer when it’s warmed up a bit. We all agree on France and the presence of Cabernet, most of us settling on Bordeaux.

And of course it’s Ducru-Beaucaillou 1982, Bordeaux.


8.      Cath – red

“Not a big wine” says Ed. Mark suggests Burgundy, but nobody agrees, and we lean towards Italy instead. A clue from Cath – it’s from a country she’s not yet visited. This rules out Italy, and there follows an in-depth discussion of Cath’s holiday destinations. It’s back to basics with a New World – Old World vote. Most of us are in the Old World. Could it be Spanish? But has Cath never visted Spain!?

To everyone’s amazement it’s a Rioja, and in more detail Bodega Palacio Rioja Reserva Especial 1995


9.      Guy and Philippa – red

Stringent rather than tannic. Ed is convinced it’s Portuguese. Guy and Philippa tell us it’s not a classic grape. Steve gets cherries on the nose and suggests Sangiovese. Ed is convinced it’s Portuguese. We all agree it’s Old World. Ed is still convinced it’s Portuguese. It’s not, but after a lot of guesswork Ed finally has the country and grapes right!

It’s Tedeschi Amarone della Valpolicella 1996, which we discover goes very well with the homemade Italian cake Guy and Philippa brought to Friday’s meal.


10.  Ed and Chris – red

A concentrated, ribena nose with a lot of sweetness and bitterness. Most people think it’s similar to the last, though this is probably the alcohol kicking in. Italian is the consensus, probably a young Sangiovese. Ed announces it’s not Italian, prompting wild guesses from around the room, until somebody reaches Spain.

It’s Priorato (producer omitted from the notes), a Gold Medal winner from Waitrose. Vintage 1999 of course – the year James was born.


11.  Steve – monster red

And it is a monster. Comments include coal scuttles, tar with myrtleberries and black pepper. Very intense. Ed is now trying to deny ever calling Steve a ‘stingy git’. Obviously it’s Aussie but what’s the grape? Talk is temporarily diverted to the subject of burgers, kebabs and vindaloo curries (the alcohol again!) before Shiraz and Cabernet are suggested.

And it’s one of Steve’s favourite wines – Henschke Mount Edelstone Shiraz 1994


12.  Ed and Chris – sweet

A deep golden colour. Steve doesn’t think it’s botytrised and suggests Riesling. Howls of disagreement from Mark and the rest of the room prompts a hasty U-turn from Steve on the issue of botytris. Further comments include marmalade and Seville oranges. Could it possibly be an Orange Muscat? Mark reckons it’s Aussie while Guy thinks Spanish.

But it’s Jackson Estate Botytris Chardonnay 1995, Marlborough, New Zealand (not available in this country!)


13.  Guy and Philippa – fortified

Comments range from raisins to walnuts. Most agree it’s Port. “Not far off a tawny 66/67” hazards Steve. Gradually though the room becomes embroiled in a Port vs. Australian fortified war.

Steve was right the first time however. It is a vintage tawny Port 1966. Can’t decipher the producer from these notes (not written by me I hasten to add!).



Voting for favourite white of the tasting resulted in a tie between Jack’s Cloudy Bay Chardonnay and Steve’s Mosel Auslese. Favourite red was the Henschke Mount Edelstone Shiraz, just beating Guy and Philippa’s excellent Amarone.