Vintage Club Newsletter
December 1995

Once again, an enormous turnout for the vintage club tasting at Cambridge on Saturday 2nd December. I managed to count 24 people all told, squeezed into the Graduate Room at Jesus College for a tasting based around the theme of Christmas. Some of the connections were, as ever, rather tenuous, but there were a number of acceptable ones.

Lunch was provided at 2pm, a little later than usual, but it gave those coming from afar time to arrive, although we had a couple of interruptions during the first wine as Cath and David and Caroline arrived. Poor Cath had been wandering around the Grafton Centre for half an hour looking for the College. Next time (if there is one) perhaps we should include a map of how to get to the college. Lunch took the form it usually takes, bread cheese, mangled dead pig known as paté. Many thanks to Jonathan and Louise for organising the food. I’m sure we would all be completely lost without it.

Mention was made once again of the imminent tenth anniversary of the Vintage Club and suggestions were asked for with regard to something different and perhaps exciting to do for the tasting. A brief discussion ensued and there were suggestions that ranged around the idea that as the VC roots are in Bath then the tasting itself should be here. One suggestion that seemed to go down well was the idea of hiring a boat on the river for the afternoon and holding a tasting there. I shall look into the possibilities and cost implications of this. So, a question to Anne must obviously be ‘How much money do we currently have and how much can we afford to subsidise a boat trip?’. Any other suggestions are welcome.

Those of you who still haven’t coughed up any money for your subs, please please please send Anne a cheque for £3.00 for each of the years you are behind. We need the money to pay for photocopying, postage etc, as well as covering the cost of hiring rooms, such as the Graduate Room that we all know well from Saturday.

The wines tasted at the Cambrige meeting. December 2nd 1995

o White 1: Karen and Kerri

Yalumba Pinot/Chardonnay Cuvée One Prestige NV £8.29 Waitrose.
Fizzy wine! One bottle opened expertly by Karen, however Kerri managed to shoot the ceiling and almost knock out Niel. Comments were very slow, but I heard Prunes and Rhubarb crumble. Or maybe someone was discussing their meal the night before? We were interrupted twice as Cath arrived and then Caroline and David arrived a little later. Alan started the ball rolling with a monologue entitled This Wine. It went something like this:
"This isn’t yeasty enough to be Champagne but isn’t acid enough to be from New Zealand so I guess it’s Californian"
His first two steps were good, but the conclusion was out. Others mentioned Cava until they tried the other bottle which didn’t have any of the mouldy barrel aromas.

The link was that Christmas is a time for celebration and sparkling wine is a celebration drink.

o White 2: Anja

Vidal Sauvignon Blanc 1995 Hawkes Bay £8.00 Victoria Wine.
Masses of gooseberries on the nose. Asparagus wafting across from others. Almost everyone said New Zealand Sauvignon immediately. People still hadn’t got into the swing of the tasting as they were still chatting to their neighbours about all sorts of interesting things.

The link (made up on the spot) with Christmas went something like this: "I like eating fish at Christmas and this wine goes well with fish"

o White 3: Guy

Trinity. Wooton Vineyard NV ‘West Country Table Wine’ A blend of three unnamed varieties from three counties! £4.95 Averys Bristol.
Very pale with an almost honeyed nose. Reminiscent of some Loire Chenin wines. Elderflower and tons of acid. Mentions of Lapland and Essence of Reindeer? Some go for a Sauvignon but most people are stumped.

The link obviously being the ‘Holy Trinity’, whatever that is.

o White 4: Alan and Helen

Millsreef Hawkes Bay Reserve Riesling New Zealand 1994 £6.50 Darwin College cellars.
Pale yellow with hints of pink. A sweet creamy nose, touch of peaches and slightly flowery. Ed says ‘Loire’ to get the ball rolling and Colin promptly replies by saying he thinks Ed is wrong. Lots of blank faces around the room. Someone mentions Parma Violets and asks me what it was that I smelled Parma Violets on about six years ago. How am I supposed to remember that?

The link with Christmas is that this is the country that they spend Christmas in.

o White 5: Niel

Mitchelton Marsanne Australia (missed the vintage) £4.99 Asda
Another very pale wine. The Germans think it smells of snow!? People start to wake up a bit and David suggests, completely out of the blue that “This wine comes from the same country as the chap who introduced the Christmas card t Britain” He explains that Christmas cards were introduced by Prince Albert, who as we know was German (alledgedly). Lightly oaked from one and Old German Riesling from another. Many countries were then rattled out in succession except Australia.

Didn’t hear a connection with the theme on this one.

o White 6: Ed and Chris

1990 Piesporter Goldtröptchen Riesling Auslese Erzeugerbabtüllung Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
Bill thought it smelled of Bombay Mix! Creamy and oily, almost carpet shampoo nose. Diesel and Kerosene mentioned. Quite sweet with a good acid balance. Slightly musty on the finish. Lots of mentions of Germany, some even go so far as to say Rheinpfalz and there is a difference of opinion as to whether it is Spätlese or an Auslese.

The link was, most surprisingly, the Christmas Card theme (see White 5)

o Red 1: Jonathan and Louise

Reif Estate Pinot Noir 1992 Niagara Canada £6.99 Independant Merchants
Very light red. Big raspberry nose. Very obviously Pinot, but from where? Chris hates it, which makes it obvious that it is a Pinot. Apparently we hear that Niel is sleeping with the cat tonight. Alan makes a comment that come out like: “I think it tastes like Vera Lynn” We don’t ask him how he knows what Vera tastes like, nor do we tell the Germans who she is/was! All on agreement on Pinot, but no-one gets the country right.

Louise lived in Canada for a while and would like to be there at Christmas.

o Red 2: Georg and Sabine

Domaine Cheze 1992 St. Joseph £8.99 Oddbins
Again quite light in colour. Lots of black pepper on the nose, suggests a Syrah. In fact so much black pepper that it must be a Syrah. Ed plumps for Northern Rhône. Only one person doesn’t think it’s Syrah, but they are mistaken.

The link of course is that Joseph was (or wasn’t if you believe that story) the father of Jesus.

o Red 3: Guy

Esk Valley Reserve Hawkes Bay New Zealand. 1992. A blend of Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. £16.00 Averys.
Blood red with purple hints. Rich warm choclolate nose with a hint of oak. A mass ‘Mmmm’ echoes around the room and everyone goes quiet. Ed is convinced that this is a major contribution to road safety, errr I mean Californian. Georg is giggling in the corner. The wine has a slightly tarry and blackcurrant fruit palate. Most people plump for a claret with some even mentioning a high percentage of merlot. We are all shocked to discover the truth.

Guy was in New Zealand for Christmas 2 years ago.

o Red 4: Jonathan and Louise

Ebeneezer 1992 Barossa Valley Estate Winery Barossa Valley Australia £9.00 Oddbins
Blood red wine. A fruity wine with tons of mint and eucalyptus on the nose. Georg suddenly leaps up at this stage and throws himself at Sabine. He gets very embarrassed when we all turn around and look at him so he goes back to his own seat. A lot of discussion about what the mintyness means, and there isn’t really a consensus. A few mention that mintyness like this would suggest a New Zealand Cabernet Sauvignon. It turns out to be a wine that the Bath posse had tasted on the previous Tuesday, however this was totally different.

The link was of course Ebeneezer Scrooge from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

o Red 5: Ed and Chris

Carrascal 1989 Bodegas Y Cavas de Weinert Mendoza Argentina. A blend of Bordeaux varieties. No price or supplier
Again a blood red colour with a spicy, fruity nose. Quite burnt with hints of Grenache characteristics. Guy thinks that this might be a bit ‘sticky’ but most people are quite puzzled by it.

The on the spot link was suggested by Chris. “Well the name sounds a bit like ‘Carol School’”. Hmmmmm.

o Red 6: Andy

Conde de Valdenar Rioja Grand Reserve 1985 £9.50 Bottoms Up.
This wine is lighter than the previous wines. Someone mentions salt ‘n’ vinegar crisps and Chris thinks it tastes like chips. Warm jammy nose, again from somewhere quite hot. Colin offers Spain and Alan suggests an Italian grape variety grown in California and then adds that Nebbiolo is what he was really thinking of. It has tons of fruit and Ken syas he thinks it’s another St. Joseph. Ed says Navarra but was just being a parrot (alledgedly).

His link with the theme was that he would like a bottle of this for Christmas

o Red 7: Cath

Domaine de St Gayan Gigondas 1990 £7.50 Yapp Bros
Purple Red, almost black in colour. Quite closed with not much on the nose at all. It was sat on the window ledge and is now a little cold. After warming it up a bit it smells quite hot, almost burnt. Quite spicy with hints of raspberry fruit. It strikes me as a Grenache based wine.

It was given to her as a Christmas present.

o Red 8: Alison

Chateau Musar 1986 Bekaa Valley Lebanon Reduced from £10 to £7.50 Safeway.
Quite light in colour with a slightly brown rim. Bill thinks it smells like an omelette that has just started to turn brown. Tobacco, pigs, chickens etc from various locations. I was suddenly put on the spot by what appeared to be a mass of smugly smiling faces led by Ed and Colin. They had guessed it and I had to show them what I was worth. One smell and the words.. “This comes from a country where...” and their faces dropped. I had worked it out! “The vines are grown in one part and the grapes trucked through a war-zone to the winery” and they knew I had it.

Of course I didn’t hear the link but I assume it was the ‘Lebanon is almost Israel, cos Israel didn’t exist in the days of Jesus etc...” excuse.

o Red 9: Ken

Chateau Musar 1979 Bekaa Valley Lebanon. A gift
Hmmmm This looks and smells exactly the same as the previous wine. It isn’t quite as burnt on the palate though, slightly sweeter if that’s possible. Lot’s of arguments about whether it is younger or older.

Alan was then heard to say “I’m so drunk, this tastes exactly like the last one

This was a Christmas present from someone.

o Red 10: Gareth

Lamaione 1992 Tenuta di Castelgiocondo Merlot A super Tuscan. £9.99 Oddbins
Rich deep red. Ed suddenly comes out with the comment "Today’s tasting has shown how good mature wine can be”. Back to the wine... Chocolate fudge. Colin suggests Italian. Others mention merlot and softness. Sabine makes a sneaky move to be sat next to Georg as they can’t bear to be not touching each other for more than five minutes.

This was mentioned in the December (and therefore Christmas) edition of Wine Magazine

o Red 11: Colin

Berardenza Chianti Classico 1990 £12.50 Noel Young wines.
Black-purply red. Soft violet nose. Guy thinks there may be some stick in this wine but others comment upon the distinct lack of tree. Some suggest Italian and yet others think it may be French. Ken pipes up with an Amarone, or an English Amarone.

The theme being that it was bought from ‘Noel’ Young wines.

o Sweet White 1: Neil

Havas Hill Tokaji Aszu 5 puttonyos 1988 £5.99 (500ml) Asda
Before this wine was even poured we were trying to guess how many puttonyos it was. The shape, size and colour of the bottle sort of gave it away.

His link is that he would like to drink it with his christmas pudding.

o Sweet White 2: David and Caroline

Cossart Gordon and Co 15 year old Malmsey Madeira. £19.50 Bottoms Up
Thick and dark golden brown. Fudge raisins and almonds. Very alcoholic. This must be fortified. Palette of vanilla ice-cream and toasted almonds. Deliciously delicious. David wants everyone to guess by it’s first letter. Eventually Colin spouts out Madeira and we are all happy.

The link being that this tastes like Christmas.

o Sweet Red 1: Gary, Philippa and Bill

Grahams Vintage 1977 Port. £34.99 Oddbins
Chris thinks there is an enormous hole in the middle of the palate. Thick red and luscious. Mentions of Benylin or any generic cough mixture. Spicy and warm. Lots of sounds of enjoyment coming from all around. David has legs in his glass from the rim to the bottom, but no wine left. Others say that it is delicious and fantastic and wonderful. Lots of people say ‘Not a port...’ but I confused them all because I decanted it into another bottle that morning.

Port is Christmas.

Following the tasting, those who had to leave left and those that were staying for food sauntered along to Pasta Galore for a cheap but cheerful Italian meal. How people can still drink wine after such a marathon tasting is beyond me, so I sipped at my water and ate my pesto. Bill seemed to hit it off with the waitress, and the group of extremely young, DJ’d undergraduates at the next table got very embarrassed when we all shut up as one of their party got up to give a speech.

After the meal, a number of people were lost to the ice-cream parlour while an ever-decreasing band of alcoholics moved onward to the Mitre for a few bevvies. As the evening drew to a close, it was noticed that the only people still going strong were the contingent that had come up from Bath. We still have the stamina to cope with these long sessions you see, all the training we get in week after week.

At this stage it was realised that two of the group hadn’t got anywhere to stay. Cath had missed her train back to London and Philippa just hadn’t bothered finding anything as she was sure something would come up. We wandered back to the hotel Guy and I were booked into and went to the bar for another drink. We eventually all ended up in our room, emptying the mini-bar and phoning room service for some more Toblerone. It didn’t appear though and we were also rudely awoken by a fire alarm at three am. It was interesting to see all the strange people who stay in these four star hotels in the middle of Cambridge. We also managed to get the porn video channel added to the bill and when they saw extra persons of alternate sexes coming down for breakfast in the morning they must have been wondering what was going on. The smirks that the reception staff gave Guy as he paid were a picture.

An excellent day for one and all I think.

The next Vintage Club meeting.

Well, what shall we do? There has been mention from Ed Moya, who has just left Bath and is now in Lancaster that he may be willing to hold a VC meeting as his place, and Cath also suggested her place in Highgate as a possible venue. We need to get some come- back from these two and from anyone else who may have an idea for a meeting between now and June.

So, a quick recap:

1. Subs to Anne please.
2. Ideas for 10th Anniversary
3. Ideas for next meeting
See you all soon.
Keep drinking.