September 2017 Newsletter
Wine Tasting in Italy
In early July, a mixed group consisting of members of the two Beeston U3A Wine Appreciation Groups and the Nottingham Wine Group set off for a week in the Valpolicella region of northern Italy led by Piers Krause. Our Ryanair flight from East Midlands was more or less on time and we were welcomed at Bergamo Airport with sunshine and temperatures well into the 30’s which is where they stayed for the rest of our visit.
Our base was La Pergola, a friendly family-run hotel in Grezzana just north of Verona and Monica and her staff provided us with a level of hospitality it would be hard to match anywhere; comfortable accommodation, excellent food and wine.
We visited three wineries during our stay (Santa Sofia, Tomassi and Serego Alighieri/Masi), all producing Valpolicella wines and allowing us to compare not only the products but their individual histories and philosophies. We learnt about the difference between Valpolicella Classico and “ordinary” Valpolicella; how Recioto is produced and how (and why) Amarone did not exist until after the 2nd World War and which in turn led to the development of Valpolicella Ripasso. The highlight was undoubtedly the visit to the estate of the Alighieri family, a wine family from medieval times and descendants of Dante, where Piers had persuaded Masi, the producers of their wines, to let us taste the famous Amarone Classico Riserva Costasera.
But it wasn’t all wine. We also visited Verona, Padua and Venice and some of our group spent a night at the opera in Verona (a production of Aida which Roy described as “Cirque du Soleil meets Doctor Who”). Our final day was spent visiting Malcesine on Lake Garda before our final gala dinner at the hotel and some impromptu entertainment from Colin.
We were a mixed bunch some of whom had not met before but the liveliness and friendly atmosphere evident from Day 1 made for a most convivial week. I must also make mention of our driver, Delfino, whose hard work and patience were much appreciated, especially when our timekeeping and Italian roadworks seemed about to thwart the schedule.
Piers has finally decided to hang up his corkscrew and will sadly not be leading any more of these adventures (but he will of course continue to lead our monthly tastings) so it seems appropriate to record our appreciation of his efforts not only in organising this trip but all the previous ones as well. I’m sure that whoever takes on the mantle of tour leader will have a valuable source of knowledge and experience to call on.
September 2016 Newsletter
A Taste of Italy
Our generation can count itself lucky that we’re able to capture the spirit of the 18th century Grand Tour (once a de-luxe gap year for rich young gentlemen bound for glittering careers) and enjoy a week away in Italy. Members of our Wine Appreciation Group and the Nottingham Wine Club once more teamed up to go on a wine-tasting trip under the leadership of Piers Krause. This year, the Veneto beckoned, with the added allure of a cruise on Lake Garda and guided tours of several famous cities.
Our family-run hotel was very comfortable and the owners did everything they could to make us feel welcome and accommodate our requirements. They also had an interesting wine list. We were based in Grezzana, a small town north of Verona, sheltered by Valpantena (valley of gods) at the foot of the Dolomites.
We were in the centre of the Valpolicella wine region and the eponymous red is the wine of choice for glugging with pizza or pasta. But the winemakers have some tricks up their sleeves to make a variety of Valpolicella wines with a great deal more finesse. After harvest, bunches of good grapes are air-dried for up to 4 months, then fermented as usual. The concentrated sugars produce Valpolicella Recioto, a red dessert wine with surprising and delicious layers of character. Midway through last century, someone fermented the sweet juice just too long and Valpolicella Amarone was born. The longer fermentation converts more residual sugar into alcohol and produces a wine which is succulent and well-balanced but which ages well. And finally, wanting to extract every last ounce of flavour from the grapes, they saved what was left of the grapes and skins from the Amarone process, then fermented a batch of ordinary Valpolicella for a second time on this residue; this they call Valpolicella Ripasso.
The wineries were keen to showcase their best wines. Machinery is modern and steel tanks stainless, but the old methods are reserved for the best wines which age for between 18 months and 4 years in oak or cherrywood barrels and barriques. This softens tannins and lends subtle bramble and vanilla flavours before bottling. All three wineries we visited had a modern visitor centre, a tour of the cellars and a tasting. Our young guides (for whom the invention of Amarone in the 1950s was ancient history!) spoke wonderful English and gave us lots of facts and figures.
All this talk of red wine ignores the area’s great contribution to the white wine industry, the dry white Soave. To the east of Valpolicella lies the village of Soave, visible for miles around, and having a hill-top citadel protected by walls which climb the steep slope to the castle. Our first tasting was at Cantina Soave, nestled beneath the walls and offering a taste of their famous white wine, alongside their Rocco Sveve Ripasso Superiore and Reciotta di Soave Classico.
For our next visit, we had to drive all of 5 minutes from the hotel to Bertani, winemakers of distinction (and our most expensive tasting). We tried Bertani Ripasso Superiore, Amarone and Recioto, which, as you’d expect, had plenty of class about them.
Our last visit was to Cantina Valpantena, just down the road from Grezzana. Our guide was Samantha Orlandi and her enthusiasm and joie de vivre were infectious. She talked with her hands and eyes and spiced her repertoire with a few bars of a Verdi aria, sung with a sweet but powerful voice. Oh, and the wines were very good, too! She served a white made from local gargenaga grapes and lightly oaked, very enjoyable drinking; then a Ripasso, an Amarone and a Recioto. The cantina markets its wines under the name Torre del Falasco (Falasco’s Tower). Falasco, Samantha explained, was a local brigand and thief. A bit like Robin Hood, then.
Piers organised an in-house wine tasting to precede our penultimate evening meal. A taste of prosecco was followed by Rocco Sveve Soave Classico and Cantina Valpantena Lugana, rounded and fruity. The reds kicked off with Torre del Falasco Ripasso Superiore, then Secco-Bertani (a dry version of their good red wine), finally Torre del Falasco Amarone Superiore.
We started our day on Lake Garda at Sirmione and took a ferry to Lazise where we had lunch. A brief downpour brought the brollies out, but the streets were steaming by the time we were ready to look around the pretty walled town. Onward to Garda and an opportunity to join other tourists jostling for space in the narrow alleys or queuing to buy Italy’s famous gelati.
The weather was kinder for our city visits and photographs looked good in the bright Italian sunshine. Verona has graceful bridges across the River Adige, spectacular Roman ruins (including the amphitheatre which famously stages Italian operas) and architecture spanning the centuries in brick, sandstone and Veronese Rosso marble. It’s obligatory to be led into a compact courtyard, accompanied by half the tourists in Verona, to goggle at a nondescript balcony said to be the very one from which Juliet delivered her famous soliloquy. Pity Shakespeare wasn’t there to pick up some ideas for a play.
The sun was out in Vicenze and the white marble facades of Antonio Palladio gleamed. Vicenze’s son was the genius who created a fashion for Greek and Roman architecture and sold his ‘Palladian’ style to the aristocracy of 16th century Italy, later to be adopted by Robert Adam in his British stately homes. Mantova proved itself well-fortified in medieval times; the castles and palaces stand to this day, the cathedral interior a riot of frescos and trompe l’oeil panels. And for our last trip, we were blessed with a gloriously bright and warm day in Venice. The waters of the Lido sparkled and the Grand Canal assumed a milky turquoise hue. Words alone can’t do justice to the beauty of the city, but our old legs had begun to tire of traipsing the streets in the heat and we were relieved to be back on solid ground.
The quality of the food and the number of empty bottles which went in the hotel’s skip each night speak volumes for the good time we had. And thank you to all the lovely, friendly Italians who made our stay so pleasant.
March 2016 Newsletter
We have tasted and discussed a variety of wines in the past quarter. In October we compared Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Shiraz/Syrah grapes of the New World and the Old World. The best from the New world was a New Zealand Pinot Noir, Coney Pizzicato 2014 from Majestic costing £14.99 (reduced from £19.99). This had the balance and elegance of a good Burgundy. On the whole we thought that the old world had the edge, showing more character and complexity. The best of the tasting was a Cotes du Rhone 2010 from the world famous Etienne Guigal. (£12.99 from Majestic). It had intense fruit, ripe tannins and good length and was a wine that we would be happy to offer our boss at a dinner party.
We devoted ourselves to the wines of Spain in November. We tasted a good value white from Rias Baixas in North-West Spain made from the Albarino grape. (£8.50 The Wine Society). The quality of white wine from this area has greatly improved and is now getting popular. The best wine, by a long way, was a Rioja Reserva 2009 (£12.99). It is from the Majestic ‘Definition’ range of wines, which aims to “capture the quintessential qualities of the world’s greatest wine styles”. The palate was fruit packed, developing coffee and spices into the finish.
The December tasting saw us celebrate the festive season. (See photo). We brought food to share and tasted some special wines, including a Grand Cru Chablis, a mature German Riesling, and a magnum of Moulin a Vent (a top Beaujolais Cru). The jury were split in choosing the best red wine. Some preferred the Burgundy, a 2009 Beaune (£27 from O W Loeb) and others the claret, a 2008 Haut Medoc from Chateau Senejac (£15 from the Co-op).
Our group is fully subscribed and there are no vacancies at present. We are hoping to open a second Wine Group. If you wish to join this new Group, please tell Piers who will put your name on a list.
June 2015 Newsletter
In the early hours of a chilly May morning, while Nottingham slept, twenty five wine tasting enthusiasts left for a five day coach tour of Burgundy. Beeston U3A members, members of the Nottingham Wine Circle and the Nottingham Wine Group made up the party. Piers Krause was the essential link between these three groups. Piers, pictured above left, with his wife, is the wine tutor to the Beeston wine tasting group and, until recently was also tutor to the Nottingham wine group. This was to be the fifth European trip Piers had led.
We travelled to the small town of Chablis to stay the night at Hostellerie des Clos.
Peter Sadler, a Beeston member, and leader of the Bird Watching Group is pictured
right, admiring the view! Chablis is about the size of Southwell, a prosperous town that has grown rich on its reputation for growing the Chardonnay grape on its Kimmeridgian clay-limestone in the production of Chablis wine. This was the third time the wine tasting group has stayed at this hotel. It boasts a one star Michelin restaurant providing superb food and an enormous range of fine wines. We arrived in the early evening and had dinner later. The rest of the evening went by in a blur of fine food and wine.
The following morning we left for our first wine tasting at Louis Michel. This producer of Chablis has an international reputation as a leading producer of Chablis. We tasted five Chablis cuvees ranging in price between €15 and €50. Louis Michel makes all his wine using stainless steel tanks thus preserving the purity of the grape and retaining its minerality. Oak is not used even for their Grand Cru.
A very satisfied group left Chablis and headed south to Chalon sur Saone just south of Dijon which was going to be our hotel base for the following three nights. The following day we set off in glorious sunshine, some of us even sported shorts and sun hats. The day was going to be dedicated to the tasting of Beaujolais and the Gamay grape.
Our first visit was to Domaine Richard Rottiers. Richard gave us a very warm welcome, see picture left, and we all squeezed into a small barn like room. The floor was bare earth and in the light from the doorway we could just make out the oak barrels which lined the walls. This was a complete contrast to the high tech, modern visiting experience of Louis Michel. Here you could smell the yeast and experience the day to day process of wine making. His production is entirely organic. Richard specialised in producing Moulin-à- Vent which is the greatest of the ten Beaujolais Cru. Soil and climate produce the full bodied character of Moulin a Vent wines. We tasted both red and white Beaujolais Village, a Rosé and a sparkling Rosé.
Once again we loaded the coach with more wine and set off for our second Beaujolais tasting. I was designated “Trolley Pusher”!
After a stop for lunch we arrived at Chateau Thivin. Piers is pictured below with one of the Thivin family. We were now in southern Beaujolais. Once again we were visiting a relatively small producer working around the slopes of the Côte de Brouilly. We tasted six cuvees of Beaujolais and were also shown how the wines were produced. The Thivin family have produced wines for generations. They produce wines from a very reasonable £4.50 to £14 for their top cuvée.
Our final day of wine tasting took us to Beaune, the wine capital of Burgundy, and the medieval cellars of Remoissenet built under the ancient city walls. Remoissenet are negociants (wine traders). Although they own some vineyards most of the wine they produce is purchased as grapes from local vineyards and produce both white and red burgundy wine from the Chardonnay and the Pinot Noir grape. We tasted three white and six red wines most of premier cru quality. The highlights were a Meursault, a Beaune Marconnets and a Premier Cru Gevrey Chambertin. These were wines that many of us would never have been able to afford but gave us the opportunity of tasting wine of the very highest quality. After the tasting we were able to visit Remoissenet’s extensive cellars and their 360,000 bottles of wine some dating back to the 1950’s.
One of the benefits of visiting wine producers and vineyards by coach is that we can taste their wine and not worry about having to drive! There is also the added advantage of being able to purchase cases of wine and load it onto the coach not worrying that we would run out of space!
We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Piers who had used his contacts to introduce us to wine growers of high quality. We also benefitted from Piers’ extensive knowledge of the wines of Burgundy. I especially appreciated visiting three such different producers; glittery Louis Michel and his stellar Chablis, Rottiers’ tiny organic set up which warmed our hearts and in between a visit to Thivin in a picture postcard setting. The experience was seamless.
As a postscript for those with an interest in bird watching we saw around 40 different species of birds during our travels through France. Peter Sadler, a member of our group and also Group leader of the Beeston U3A Birdwatching group helped some of us identify Black Redstart, Serin, Night Heron, Hoopoe and possible Montagues Harrier, birds very rarely seen in the UK.
December 2014 Newsletter
You will notice that the name of our group has changed. I would like our group to be called ‘Wine Appreciation’ and not ‘Wine Tasting’ as we do much more than taste wine; for example we discuss the wine benefits of different climates and the contribution that geology makes to wine.
During the last quarter we have travelled the vinous world. In September we tasted and discussed the wines of South America, including Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. We thought the best wine was a Chilean Merlot made by Concha Y Toro. The wines were from Majestic and the Wine Society.
We visited the French regions in October. One of the wines we had was a Saint Chinian from the Languedoc and it was a coincidence that a couple from our Group sent me their apologies as they were holidaying at their cottage close to their favourite village of St Chinian. The best wine at this tasting was a Bordeaux Graves -Chateau Gales – from the Beeston branch of Lidl!
Finally we had an all Australian tasting from wines supplied by Sainsbury and Tesco. A shiraz from Tim Adams (Tesco) stood out. It was aromatic with rich blackberry fruit and soft tannins. This group has grown to such an extent that we are fully subscribed now.
If you wish to join do contact Piers who will put your name on a waiting list. firstname.lastname@example.org
September 2014 Newsletter
This group has grown to such an extent that we are fully subscribed now. We have to limit the numbers because we wish to taste more than a thimble full of wine! Those wishing to join will go on a waiting list.
If you wish to join do contact Piers who will put your name on a waiting list. email@example.com
June 2014 Newsletter
During the past quarter we have grown to such an extent that we are fully subscribed now. We have to limit the numbers because we wish to taste more than a thimble full of wine! Those wishing to join will go on a waiting list.
We tasted Chilean wines in March. We liked the Malbec/Cabernet from Montes but the wine that stood out was the Casa Lapostelle Cuvee Alexandre Merlot which was fruity and complex. Both are available at Majestic Wine. We had Italian wines from the Wine Society in April and we found that the Valpollicella Ripasso Superiore from Torre del Falasco had immediate appeal as it was richly flavoured. The wine for serious lovers was Fontodi’s Chianti Classico which, though young, showed lots of potential because of its complexity and balance. In May we tasted Argentinian wines for the first time in our Group. The runaway winner was Nicolas Catena’s Malbec. This is a gorgeous and classy wine well defined with its tight fine tannins and acidity. It is available at the Nottingham branch of Majestic.
If you wish to join do contact Piers who will put your name on a waiting list. firstname.lastname@example.org
March 2014 Newsletter
We meet at 2pm on the first Tuesday of every month at the White Lion, Beeston and have themed wine tastings covering most wine growing areas in the world. We taste and discuss the wines. There are vacancies and you are welcome to join. Please send me an email. My address is email@example.com Cost is usually around £5 per person for the wine plus £1.50 towards room hire expenses.
We tasted French wines at our January tasting. The most interesting wine was a Roussillon made by an Englishman Jonathan Treloar. This wine is available from a local wine merchant. The theme for the February tasting was the wines of Australia. Our group was split as to which was the best wine. Some of us thought it was a Cabernet Sauvignon, Kangarilla Road from Maclaren Vale, whilst others liked the Barossa Valley Shiraz from Peter Lehmann the best. These wines were bought from Majestic Wine Warehouse. At our March gathering we tasted Chilean wines and we will be sampling the wines of Italy on 1st April.
19 February 2014
Next meeting – Tuesday the 4th March at the White Lion at Beeston at 2pm. We shall be tasting the wines of Chile
On Tuesday the 1st April at the White Lion at Beeston at 2pm. We shall be tasting the wines of Italy
We have room for new members. Do come along and give it a trial. If you are attending for the first time please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org Cost is usually around £5 per person for the wine plus £1.50 towards room hire expenses.
December 2013 Newsletter
We are a friendly group and meet at 2 pm on the first Tuesday of the month at The White Lion, Beeston and have themed wine tastings covering most wine areas of the world. Places are available and you are welcome to join.
For our inaugural meeting we tasted and discussed some benchmark wines from around the world including a Chablis, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, a Bordeaux, a Reserva Rioja, a Rhone and an Australian Shiraz. Members liked the Tim Adams Shiraz the best which is available at the Tesco opposite our pub! Our second tasting covered the wines of South Africa and included the flagship Pinotage and their Chenin Blanc. Members thought the best wine was a Bordeaux blend from Vergelegen (from Majestic) which had a gamey nose and sweet plum and cassis on the palate. I am organising a wine trip to Provence next June. We shall be based in Avignon and have tastings at Chateauneuf du Pape and other Rhone winemakers. We shall stay in Chablis on the return journey. There are vacancies and if you like to have the details send me an email addressed to email@example.com Tel.9284988