Thursday, 24 April 2014

Wine Challenge - another 20 bottles

Easter Saturday was the second round in our Scout 100 Wine Tasting Challenge - if your new to my blog have a look at my original post about our 100th Birthday

So after a very successful first round I was shopping again for 20 more wines but this time from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. My budget is £4.50 a bottle but with careful budgeting, a keen eye when out shopping and some very generous donations I think we hit the mark.

First HUGE thank you to our donators for this round:

Calais Wine Superstore - who very kindly donated a case of The Paddock - this was one of our tastings (reviews later) and because we only use one bottle per tasting the remaining bottles will be used as raffle prizes throughout the year. Thank you for such a generous donation.

Julie and Paul - a fantastic donation of The Opportunist, thank you for your support.

Sarah and Ian - a generous donation of Rawnsley Estate Chardonnay, thank you.

Tesco store in Bedworth - who kindly donated a case of mixed wines, some will be in our next tasting but Noblio was a perfect New Zealand addition for this round. Tesco also donated a Gallo Five Oaks and 20cl Freixenet Cava for our raffle, thank you so much.

Sainsburys store in Nuneaton - a brilliant gift card donation for our raffle, thank you.

Everyone has been so generous and I already have many donations for our next tasting in July featuring European wines and some special wines for our final tasting in November.

This will be a very special tasting with sparkling wines - Freixenet have already donated a full bottle of their Cordon Nero for this event. Friends have donated higher value wines too which we will be saving for our final tasting; these include a Chateauneuf de Pape, Pouilly Fume, and Villa Cafaggio.

And so to Round 2.......

Round 2 - ready to go
White wines
Australian Sparkling Brut (Co-op): great value sparkling wine, light and refreshing

Yellow Tails - pinot grigio (Co-op) : a bargain find at £3.00, full of green apples, citrus and passion fruit, quite a popular one
Heritage Road - chardonnay (Sainsburys) : deep yellow chardonnay with a nose of apricots
Rawnsley Estate - chardonnay (Sarah and Ian's donation) : another good example of an Australian chardonnay, quite a favourite with some of the ladies.
St Hallett - reisling (Co-op) : this Barossa wine caused some hilarity as the nose produced the recognisable riesling fragrance of petrol
The Opportunist - sauvignon blanc, Riesling (Julie and Ian's donation) : a good quality wine with the Riesling giving an added flavour to this Australian sauvignon blanc

Noblio - sauvignon blanc (donated by Tesco) : this grape was a favourite at the first tasting and it remained the favourite this time, a few tasters recognised the grape from last time.
Vineyards World of Wines - chenin blanc (Tesco) : although we have 20 cheeses at each tasting I have not been pairing them to the wines, however for this final white I did ask everyone to have a taste before having a piece of gruyere cheese and then a second taste. Everyone commented that the cheese lifted the wine - this was a discovery we made at a Tesco Wine Fair many years ago: South African chenin blanc is a prefect match for Swiss gruyere cheese.

The wine cheese pairing led very nicely into our buffet break. After tasting all 8 whites everyone compared notes to find the most popular. It was the New Zealand sauvignon blanc Noblio - my favourite too. And so to our cheeses - it's quite tricky to find 20 new cheeses each time (again to a very tight budget) and some cheese types were the same as last time but from a different store - a bit like the same grape from different producers !!

Our cheese buffet wrapped and waiting
but soon devoured
Our cheeses this time were:
Hochland curd cheese slices with onion and chives
Adsa Gruyere
Philadelphia soft cheese with salmon and dill
Farmfoods mild Cheddar slices
Tesco Cornish brie
Tesco Gorgonzola
Seriously strong speadable
Philadelphia soft cheese with sweet chilli
Farmfoods Edam slices
Asda Cheddar with pickled onions and chives
Tesco Red Leicester
Tesco Blue Stilton
Farmfoods mature Cheddar slices
Tesco medium Cheddar
Tesco Edam
Asda French chilli roulé
Tesco Wensleydale with cranberries
Tesco mini Brie
Tesco smoke flavoured cheese
Tesco Camembert

There is nothing nicer than a plate of cheese and a glass of wine - everyone had a small glass of their favourite white and plenty of biscuits to hep the cheese along - so moreish !

Moving back to wine tasting it was our 4 Rosé wines - the first from South Africa and the other three from Australia. It was interesting to compare these to the Californian rosé wines we had last time.

Rosé Wines 

South African Rosé - blend (Co-op) : a reasonable wine but probably better chilled.
kooliburra - blend (Aldi) : this was quite a favourite with the ladies, especially at just £3.99 a bottle
Jacaranda Hill - shiraz (Co-op) : most people found this a little sharp and dry
Oxford Landing Estates - blend (Co-op) : I honestly can't remember what people said for this one, I should take notes but pouring, talking and trying not to have too many sips myself is a hard enough juggle without adding a pen to the equation.

Raffle time next - as I mentioned before we had a lovely bottle of Gallo Five Oaks and the mini Cava for Tesco, the £10 gift card from Sainsbury's and as it was Easter I added a Mini Eggs mug with a packet of Mini Eggs. Great excitement and all prizes were won - although it's never me.

The final 8 were our red selection. I tried this time to have the same grape from different countries or producers.  One of each pair was from Lidl's reasonably priced range Cimarosa.

Red Wines

Singata - pinotage (this was from our own cellar and probably purchased in France) : a new grape for many of the tasters, quite mixed opinions.
Cimarosa - shiraz (Lidl) : the first chance of the evening to try a shiraz wine as a single grape. At 14.5% it was certainly a weighty wine.
Cimarosa - shiraz, cabernet sauvignon (Lidl) : A smooth red from South Africa, definitely lighter than the single shiraz.
Hardy's - shiraz, cabernet sauvignon (Co-op) : a known wine to many at the tasting and at the time the favourite.
Cimarosa - cabernet sauvignon (Lidl) : this quickly knocked the Hardy's off being the favourite, a lovely wine from Australia
Robertson Winery - cabernet sauvignon (another from our cellar and purchased at Majestic in France) - and with the speed of lightening became the favourite - much smoother and deeper - the star of the single cabernet sauvignon pair.
Masterpeace - shiraz (Aldi) : slightly over my budget at £4.99 but a spicy deep red shiraz wine. There were a few 'mmmmm's happening as this was being tasted.
The Paddock - shiraz (donated by Calais Wine) : the star of the reds. It was mainly the chaps that liked the red wines, each red was proclaimed the favourite only to be overtaken by the next, finalising in this being unquestionable voted the overall best. There were quite a few 'yes please' for second tastings of this Australian wine filled with plums, red berries, vanilla and a hint of spice, and many requests for details on how to get to Calais - details in my Calais page

The star of the evening
Thank you so much to everyone who helped with donations and a big thank you to my Hubby Nick who did another amazing job of being my 'odd' wine waiter. Thanks too to our daughter Philippa who was home from Uni and also came up to help.

Our next tasting is July 12th and will feature wine from Europe but not France as this will be our fourth tasting in September. I already have quite a few bottles ready, donations from Tesco and friends Alan & Beverley. I need to have a review of my storage boxes under the stairs before buying any - I know for certain there is a Mateus Rosé.

It is great fun finding these' bargains', writing up the tasting notes (blind) and
 presenting the wines - I hope you've enjoyed reading about Round 2 of our
100 Wine Tasting Challenge .....cheers !!

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

An amazing weekend in Oxford

As my regular blog readers know I love organising events and holidays - recently for Aimetu's Stitching which was great fun.

Anyway I have been a member of Tesco Wine Community for a few years, a great place to chat with fellow wine lovers and Tesco offer many tasting opportunities which have helped improve my wine knowledge. We have visited 7 or 8 of their annual Wine Fairs but have never managed to meet the other members so I decided to offer to arrange a 'meet up'.

I emailed various hotels, who whilst offering great room rates for staying over and had wonderful meeting rooms, quoted prices as high as £25 corkage a bottle for us to try our wines !! Thankfully Jackie, another TWC member, is a PhD student at Oxford University and arranged a meeting room for the afternoon and guest rooms for our stay - it was a really lovely venue.

The plan for the day was to meet everyone, follow Jackie on a short tour of Oxford grabbing a tum lining lunch, share and discuss wines we had each brought along, Chinese meal and bed !! All was planned and we were ready to go.

However I was then amazed to receive an email from Trivento Wines offering us a tasting of some wines from their range, along with their Cono Sur, Bonterra and Casillo del Diablo partner wines. An amazing offer which I gratefully accepted.

So after excitedly greeting the other TWC members, the planned tour of Oxford with lunch (more later), Jackie showing us to our rooms and the wonderful meeting room, we didn't have long before Ben from Trivento arrived accompanied by these lovelies:

Trivento selection
But before expanding on these I must add a few notes: wine needs cheese and nibbles so I also brought along biscuits, cheese, pate, walnuts and 'replacement' antipasti. It was replacement because I had bought a lovely platter from Lidl's new range - not far from leaving home, just as we hit the main country road out of town, Hubby casually asked 'did you put anything on the roof' - the antipasti platter - last seen flying off down the road behind us !!

Dave and Agnes 'safely' bought along some Spanish meats and cheese, and Ed, Clive and Julie brought some goodies too - making quite a platter.

Oh can you spot the 'large' bottle of Lanson? Helen McGinn author of The Knackered Mother's Wine Club had met Steve and Steph at a previous event and kindly sent on this lovely bottle of bubbly to get us going - it certainly met the challenge.

Lanson White Label - gift from Helen McGinn

So back to Ben and his lovely range of wine; 3 whites and 3 reds. They were lovely and it was such fun sitting together to sample them, comparing colours, noses and tastes. I have unfortunately mislaid my tasting notes - good excuse to try them again - so the notes are from memory, just hope I've not mixed any up, pinot noir is a white wine isn't it?

Casillero del Diablo Devil's Collection Reserva - this was a new wine to me, Casillero del Diablo but with a striking new label 
Cono Sur 20 Barrels sauvignon blanc it was so interesting to learn how the brand got it's original name - 20 barrels left so the vintner made a new wine. Being a sauvignon blanc fan this was my favourite.
Bonterra chardonnay - I can't remember it really, maybe I was refilling the water karafes in the kitchen :)
Cono Sur Bicicleta pinot noir a light red in colour - plenty of notes on their link
Trivento Malbec Reserve a crimson colour which looked like velvet in the glass, lots of blackberries with a hint of spice and vanilla
Trivento Malbec Grand Reserve this was everyone's favourite, deep red in colour, dark fruits and a lovely warm smooth finish.

From the left: Hubby Nick, Clive, Julie, Steph, Steve,
Jackie, Dave, Agnes (hiding), Ed and of course Ben
Jackie has kindly forwarded his notes which I have added as a separate page - Trivento at Oxford.

We spent a lovely hour chatting away - a great group. To thank Ben (and Jackie for the venue) I had put together a little goody bag each - Hobgoblin beer and chocolate. It was quite difficult to think of a gift for a man but not give wine - you'll see why Hobgoblin later.

So now to our wine and all those nibbles. I have to confess here that I cannot remember everyone's wine, hopefully we will be emailing each other as it would be great to find them again to enjoy at home.

We took it in turns to present our choices - Jackie is a member of the Oxford Wine Society and has learnt quite a lot in his time at the University, he presented these two lovely wines from his cellar.

German Riesling
Pinot Noir 
These two wines were lovely, however quite a surprise. I'm not a Riesling fan, either Old World or New World but this German wine was so smooth. The other wine was a surprisingly dark coloured pinot noir, full of flavour and body.

I'm not even sure who went next but Dave bought two Spanish wines - one actually from Spain. I was very pleased he had as my main experience of Spanish wine is rioja which is not always to my liking. I enjoyed both these Spanish bottles and will now maybe start to look at others.

A Spanish one from Dave and Agnes

Reds on the table - the whites were resting in the fridge

A beautiful white from Clive and Julie - it was a 2005
that he'd laid down
Loire Valley white and red brought over
from our holidays in France
I didn't get photos of Steve and Steph's wines or Ed's but all the wines sampled were very, very good - we counted up and overall there were 19 bottles which for just 10 people made a 'nice' ratio hic hic

It was a brilliant afternoon of sampling, eating, chatting, laughing - as you can see from the nibbles after shot.
Yum Yum
A few days before the event Tesco sent on a case of their wine for us too. Unfortunately with Trivento visiting and all our own wine already chosen it was just impossible to include these in our tastings - so we divided the case up and had a couple of bottles each to take home and enjoy. The case was the Finest Party Case Mixed Dozen which contains three bottles of each 4 wines. Resting in our cellar is now a Reserva Especial Sauvignon Blanc from Chile, and a Mundulla Shiraz from Australia. It was a nice gift to take home, thanks to Tesco Wine Community.

My Tesco wines to enjoy at home
Back tracking to our visit into Oxford - we had time for a quick stroll round looking at the beautiful Cotswold buildings before enjoying a lunch. It's a beautiful place.

Small windows with intricate carving

A massive outside wall of identical panels

The most important church in Oxford - if you
live more than 3 miles from here you cannot
study at the University
On our tour

Old square church tower, intricate clock and bells
with a hexagonal building next door
Oxford has some amazing architecture
Wolfson College, where we stayed, is on the banks of the River Cherwell and our meeting room had glorious views of the river watching punters go up and down. There was plenty of wildlife too with a pair of nesting swans and some Canadian geese. Hubby and I enjoyed a coffee sitting on the college patio on Sunday morning before meeting up again to say our goodbyes. A beautiful setting complimented by gorgeous wines shared in really great company - cheers !
Beautiful view
Everyone (just) survived our very 'full' Saturday and Sunday morning we went our separate ways; Jackie to work, Ed, Steph and Steve set off home; Dave and Agnes went back into Oxford for the day; and Clive, Julie, Hubby and I moved over to Witney, just 20 minutes down the road - another beautiful Cotswold town. The main reason for our visit was Wychwood Brewery - home of Hobgoblin beer (remember the goody bags)

Witney market place

Witney church and cross

Cotswold high street
After a lovely lunch at Café Rouge arrived at Wychwood for their afternoon tour. Hubby and I have been before but it was Clive and Julie's first tour of a brewery. The Tap is a small bar room on the ground floor where we were greeted and offered a half pint of Hobgoblin or other Wychwood beer. A 45 minute very informative tour followed, including tasting the barley at various levels of roasting, and although as I said we've been before (and to other breweries) there is always more to learn. The smell as you go around is amazing. It's quite a small brewery still brewed in the traditional way with many of the original vats and equipment.

After the tour we returned to The Tap to sample their range - well not quite all the range but at least 6. As I was driving Hubby had double samplings - no complaints though ! My favourite in their range is Black Wych a lovely stout and Ginger Beard. They also produce Brakspear beer and we all enjoyed a sample of their Triple III.

Behind the bar - me, Hubby, Julie and Clive
Hubby and I also popped into the Majestic in Witney - we don't have one near us. It was very similar to the store at Calais with a great range. We did bring a case home but made up of three wines of our choice -

Paul Mas Marsanne, The Ned Sauvignon Blanc and Paul Mas Syrah-Viognier

An absolutely amazing weekend, everyone played a part in making it such fun to meet for the first time (although after five minutes you'd have thought we were long lost friends)
One to be repeated I'm sure - thank you everyone x x