Saturday 13th July 2019: "Women in Wine" with Celia in Henfield

This was a difficult day for SWAS and we all send our very best wishes to Janis & Bill.  Circumstances meant that several members had travel problems and were unable to join Celia for her splendid al fresco Tasting at her home in Henfield.  Nevertheless, the evening went very well, eight of us enjoyed what turned out to be a very select Tasting and were even able to welcome guests, Karin & Chris, neighbours of Lyn & Dave.

All the wines that we enjoyed during the evening were produced by some of the leading female Winemakers of the World.

( This evening's wines [with the exception of the Raffle Wines] were supplied by The Wine Society ).

The Whites:

1. Château Bel Air Perponcher Réserve, Bordeaux Blanc 2018; Sauvignon Blanc, Semillion and a hint of Muscadelle; 12% abv; purchased from The Wine Society for £9.95

Winemaker:  Basaline Despagne

    

Vignobles Despagne is responsible for six Bordeaux properties, spanning 300 hectares, and is known for taking more care of its vines than some classed growths. The family shines like a beacon in Entre-Deux-Mers. In 1990, it acquired Château Bel-Air Perponcher here, and has developed as high a reputation for its whites as its reds at this property. The vines, which are immaculately tended, comprise sauvignon blanc, semillon and muscadelle for the whites and merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc for the reds and the company’s rosé. Vines have been cultivated organically since 2008.

"One of the top wines of the 'Everyday Bordeaux' tasting, with white apricot, ripe pear and decent mid palate density. With admirable freshness and lift on the finish, the wine works well with steamed or grilled fish … at under £10 a bottle you cannot go wrong." Decanter Magazine 5th June 2019

2.  Macabeu Les Perles de Jones, Domaine Jones, Vin de France 2015; Languedoc and Roussillon; 100% Maccabeu; 13.5% abv; purchased from The Wine Society for £17.00

Winemaker:  Katie Jones

      

Domaine Jones has only been in existence since 2008 and despite its tiny output (fewer than 16,000 bottles) and the fact that its owner Katie had never made wine before, it has already won international acclaim. Wine Society buyer Marcel Orford-Williams has followed her career from the beginning, and says that Katie ‘is a one-off.’

Originally from Ashby de la Zouch, Katie moved to the tiny village of Paziols (population c500) 20 years ago, ‘beguiled’ by the beauty of the scenery, the charm of the villages and the warmth of the people. She took up a position with the local Mont Tauch Co-op, one of the more dynamic in the region, and stayed for 16 years before buying her first 2.5-hectare vineyard in 2008, in Maury, intending to use it for gardening and, like almost everyone else in the village, to sell the grapes to the co-op. It was well-priced and planted with gnarled old vines that yielded too low to be of interest to most growers intending to sell grapes.

She thought she was getting a vineyard of grenache noir but found, when the vines flowered the following spring, that she had also acquired grenache gris, muscat and carignan. This land is tough, remote and at altitude amid crags and just beneath the Cathar fortress of Queribus, surrounded by wild garrigue and consisting of black schist that is notoriously hard to cultivate.

So having taken the plunge and given up her job she set out to make wine. She acquired a 200-year-old stone building which she christened ‘The Vatican’ (it’s on the rue du Vatican), and bought the equipment she needed with the advice of a friend, Australian winemaker/consultant David Morrison, to guide her. She had to purchase tiny vats so that she could fit them in to ‘the Vatican’ and vinify all the varieties separately.

Success was unexpectedly immediate. Though she had imagined that she would have to establish herself and her wine style over a couple of vintages her first red, the 2009, won several accolades including an International Wine Challenge (IWC) silver medal. Her whites were also much awarded and The Society’s Marcel Orford-Williams snapped it up for the first time.

Her success encouraged her to pursue another dream and buy a vineyard in Fitou, once again on difficult land to farm, which meant she got a very good price, which brought more grenache and carignan plus some syrah into her portfolio of varieties. She followed up her award-winning 2009 non-appellation wine when the 2010 from the new vineyard won the Fitou Trophy at the IWC. Since then she has acquired more Fitou vines and moved to bigger premises, an old rail-engine shed in Tuchan.

However, it has not all been plain sailing for her. In 2013 spiteful vandals broke in to her winery and opened the taps on the vats of her white wines, draining away her unbottled 2012 vintage, while wild boars stripped her vines of ripe muscat grapes one autumn. Nonetheless, Katie has overcome all the difficulties to make wonderful wines in a wonderful landscape, and though she won't rest on her laurels she can sit in her vineyards with husband Jean Marc, take in the beauty and be proud of what she has achieved.

3. Warwick Professor Black, Western Cape 2017 , SA; a blend of Sauvignon Blanc from the cool Darling region and Semillion from Elgin; 14% abv; purchased from The Wine Society  for £20

Winemaker:  Norma Ratcliffe

      

Warwick Estate has been at the forefront of the Cape’s wine scene since the 1960s, when Norma Ratcliffe bought the Stellenbosch estate with her husband, Stan. Together they revived a winemaking tradition which went back as far as 1770. Until 2018 stewardship was in the dynamic hands of their son Mike Ratcliffe, who oversaw a new era of expansion and innovation. There is now a fine tasting room on site as well as a range of gourmet picnic opportunities and the chance for a Land Rover vineyard tour with stunning views over the Simonsberg and town of Stellenbosch nearby.

Between 1771 and 1902, the farm was called De Goede Sukses, literally translated as The Good Success. Following the end of the Anglo-Boer War in 1902 the commanding officer of the Warwickshire Regiment, Colonel William Alexander Gordon, bought the farm and renamed it Warwick in tribute to his old regiment. In 1964 Stan and Norma bought the estate and after Stan’s death, Norma guided Warwick to acclaim with her flagship wine, Trilogy.

First produced in 1986, Trilogy is a three-varietal Bordeaux-style blend. Cabernet sauvignon-led until the fine 2015 vintage when cabernet franc took over for the first time, its influence in the blend having been growing in preceding vintages under cellarmaster Nic van Aarde, who gained both experience and love of the grape both as a stagiare at Château Angélus in Bordeaux and closer to home at Mulderbosch. Nic shared his love of cabernet franc with Norma Ratcliffe, who also honed her winemaking skills in Bordeaux, and Warwick was among the first to bottle it as a single varietal as far back as 1988, with consistent acclaim.

The wine portfolio also includes the Blue Lady Cabernet Sauvignon (set to grow in importance now that Trilogy is cabernet franc-led, and thanks to Warwick's commitment to the Stellenbosch and Simonsberg Cabernet Sauvignon initiative) and White Lady Chardonnay. Professor Black was for many years a sauvignon blanc but from the 2017 vintage has been reintroduced as a Bordeaux-style sauvignon semillon blend, using fruit sourced from Elgin and Darling. Other wines include The First Lady Chardonnay and Cabernet, vinous tributes to the estate's matriarch, Norma Ratcliffe, who became the first female to be invited to join the august Cape Winemakers Guild of leading South African winemakers.

2018 was a momentous year for the Ratcliffe family and for Warwick Estate. Norma decided it was time to retire, and together she and Mike took the decision to sell the business to a partnership of American and Indian investors, who also bought the large Uitkyk farm which neighbours Kanonkop, just across the road. It is still early days but Warwick under a brand new team is setting its sights on growing both production and Brand recognition.

**This wine was unanimously agreed to be 'The SWAS Wine of the Evening'...!**

Between the Whites and the Reds Celia served an Avocado Dip...

The Reds:

4. Château Bel Air Perponcher Rouge Réserve, Bordeaux 2016; Entre-Deux-Mers, Bordeaux, France; 85% merlot, 15% cabernet sauvignon; 13.5% abv; purchased from The Wine Society for £9.95

Winemaker:  Basaline Despagne

     

Vignobles Despagne is responsible for six Bordeaux properties, spanning 300 hectares, and is known for taking more care of its vines than some classed growths.

The family shines like a beacon in Entre-Deux-Mers. In 1990, it acquired Château Bel-Air Perponcher here, and has developed as high a reputation for its whites as its reds at this property. The vines, which are immaculately tended, comprise sauvignon blanc, semillon and muscadelle for the whites and merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc for the reds and the company’s rosé. Vines have been cultivated organically since 2008.

A lighter, unoaked wine (the Réserve) is also made, as well as a semillon-dominant white which is cool fermented to achieve a refreshing, aromatic character. The property’s rosé is made using cabernet sauvignon (plus around 30% merlot and a little cabernet franc), the grapes for which are picked at optimum ripeness to retain their freshness. This property is run by Basaline Despagne, and her brother Thibault runs Château Mont-Perat, a fantastic example of a Premier Cotes de Bordeaux from the right bank of the Garonne. Acquired in 1998, the four splendidly positioned hills of vines here are managed by Jean-Pierre Cousinié.

5. Susana Balbo Private Edition Blend for The Wine Society 2016;  35% cabernet franc, 35% petit verdot, 30% cabernet sauvignon; 13.5%abv; purchased from The Wine Society for £13.95

Winemaker:  Susana Balbo

    

A lovely Argentine exclusive from one of the country's finest winemakers, Susana Balbo. The blend is 30% cabernet sauvignon, 35% cabernet franc and 35% petit verdot, aged in barrel for about 10 months. Ripe yet fresh-tasting wine from a cool year combining a firm palate from the petit verdot, attractive blackcurrant fruit from the cabernet sauvignon and a cedary top note from the cabernet franc.

After an already long and successful career in winemaking, Susana Balbo described her own winery – Dominio del Plata – as ‘like my third child, a dream come true.’ Susana graduated with a degree in oenology in 1981 – the first woman in Argentina to do so, but this wasn't enough for the gutsy Balbo: she also achieved the degree with honours as the best graduate of her year. Having worked extensively both in Argentina and throughout the winemaking world (Spain, Chile, Italy, Australia, and California among others) since the early eighties, it wasn't until the cusp of the shiny new millennium in 1999 that she finally realised her ambition of making her own wine at Dominio del Plata in the famous Mendoza region.

Susana established her winery in Agrelo, assisted by the renowned Argentine viticulturist Pedro Marchevsky who helped plant the vineyards. Susana’s ideas on social responsibility extend to sponsoring the local football club, community dining scheme, and also contributing to the education of their workers’ children.

The team at the winery are young and dynamic, enabling Susana to continue with her quest for innovation to satisfy an ever-changing and increasingly discerning world palate. As well as significantly raising the profile of the torrontés grape by using it to make fresh, citrusy white wines, Susana is seen by many as queen of malbec in the country that made the grape truly famous. Her success with this grape ranges from the vibrant, youthful, everyday Faldeos Malbec – a range made for The Wine Society – to the silky, oak-aged Signature (in which she also earns great success with cabernet sauvignon). One of her finest wines - the Susana Balbo Brioso – is an artful blend of cabernet, malbec, merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot, and is always a triumph with members. Maybe it is her maternal affection for her wines that has made her so skilled at the art of blending, enabling her to achieve some of the most delicate and balanced aromas and flavours with the malbec grape at staggering value for money (a far cry from its early days as the many-named ugly duckling of the French varieties). Achieving this at a time when few thought women capable of even being winemakers makes this accolade all the more admirable.

6.  Fitou, Domaine Jones 2016; Languedoc et Roussillon, France; carignan/grenache; 14.5% abv; purchased from The Wine Society for £15.50

Winemaker:  Katie Jones

        

Full-bodied, ripe, plummy, figgy and rich-tasting wine. Drunk in Fitou in the cold of January, it worked very well with civet de sanglier but another hearty stew would do just as well!

Domaine Jones has only been in existence since 2008 and despite its tiny output (fewer than 16,000 bottles) and the fact that its owner Katie had never made wine before, it has already won international acclaim. Wine Society buyer Marcel Orford-Williams has followed her career from the beginning, and says that Katie ‘is a one-off.’

Originally from Ashby de la Zouch, Katie moved to the tiny village of Paziols (population c500) 20 years ago, ‘beguiled’ by the beauty of the scenery, the charm of the villages and the warmth of the people. She took up a position with the local Mont Tauch Co-op, one of the more dynamic in the region, and stayed for 16 years before buying her first 2.5-hectare vineyard in 2008, in Maury, intending to use it for gardening and, like almost everyone else in the village, to sell the grapes to the co-op. It was well-priced and planted with gnarled old vines that yielded too low to be of interest to most growers intending to sell grapes.

She thought she was getting a vineyard of grenache noir but found, when the vines flowered the following spring, that she had also acquired grenache gris, muscat and carignan. This land is tough, remote and at altitude amid crags and just beneath the Cathar fortress of Queribus, surrounded by wild garrigue and consisting of black schist that is notoriously hard to cultivate.

So having taken the plunge and given up her job she set out to make wine. She acquired a 200-year-old stone building which she christened ‘The Vatican’ (it’s on the rue du Vatican), and bought the equipment she needed with the advice of a friend, Australian winemaker/consultant David Morrison, to guide her. She had to purchase tiny vats so that she could fit them in to ‘the Vatican’ and vinify all the varieties separately.

Success was unexpectedly immediate. Though she had imagined that she would have to establish herself and her wine style over a couple of vintages her first red, the 2009, won several accolades including an International Wine Challenge (IWC) silver medal. Her whites were also much awarded and The Society’s Marcel Orford-Williams snapped it up for the first time.

Her success encouraged her to pursue another dream and buy a vineyard in Fitou, once again on difficult land to farm, which meant she got a very good price, which brought more grenache and carignan plus some syrah into her portfolio of varieties.

She followed up her award-winning 2009 non-appellation wine when the 2010 from the new vineyard won the Fitou Trophy at the IWC. Since then she has acquired more Fitou vines and moved to bigger premises, an old rail-engine shed in Tuchan.

However, it has not all been plain sailing for her. In 2013 spiteful vandals broke in to her winery and opened the taps on the vats of her white wines, draining away her unbottled 2012 vintage, while wild boars stripped her vines of ripe muscat grapes one autumn. Nonetheless, Katie has overcome all the difficulties to make wonderful wines in a wonderful landscape, and though she won't rest on her laurels she can sit in her vineyards with husband Jean Marc, take in the beauty and be proud of what she has achieved.

For Supper, Celia served an exellent Haddock, Beetroot, Leek, Spinach, Cheese & Tomato 'ensemble'...! Followed by Eton Mess and a Cheese Board.

Supper Wines:

1. Château Ksara Réserve du Couvent 2016; cabernet, shiraz; 13.5%; abv; purchased from The Wine Society for £10.50

The wine the Lebanese drink. Ksara is the country's oldest winery and this is a peppery and robust red made from a blend of mostly syrah and cabernet sauvignon. 

     

2.  Three Choirs Silver Jubilee Gloucestershire 2018; 11.5% abv; purchased from The Wine Society for  £8.50

Initially blended to celebrate 25 years of collaboration between Three Choirs and The Wine Society, this English white proved such a hit that it's here to stay! This 2018 vintage is opulent, tropical, citrus and fresh 

     

The Raffle:

1.  Black of Kalavryta 2017; Greece; 12.5% abv - won by Dave English

    

2.  White Burgundy; South Burgundy, France; 100% Chardonnay; 12.5% abv - won by Claire

  

Page last updated 15/07/2019

If you would like to find out more about us or to enquire about joining please contact our Secretary, Mike Brook, at email: Sec.SWAS@btinternet.com

SWAS Contact details:

Our Secretary,Mike Brook, can be contacted at email: Sec.SWAS@btinternet.com

We'll post the full details of our future Tasting Dates on our home page as each is confirmed