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Red Herring Wine Club News

Autumnal News


Club Chairman, Conal Gregory, Master of Wine, writes:


Thank you to all members who took part in our first tutored tasting since February.  Although it had to be conducted via Zoom, it was great to see so many participate.


Emma Dawson, Master of Wine, guided the Club through wines from Campania which is one of Italy’s almost secret provinces.  Villa Matilde was the producer, an estate founded by Neapolitan lawyer Francesco Paolo Avallone.  His great interest has been to revive the ‘first growth’ of the Roman Empire, Falernum, made famous by the writings of Pliny.


Among the reds surveyed, the aglianico vine was much appreciated.  This is grown for Campania’s star red, Taurasi; it is matured for a minimum 18 months in oak barrels.  Members may recall the stunning aglianico from Basilicata (Cantine del Notaio 2008) which we showed at our ‘Wines for Christmas’ tasting last December.


We will evaluate if this is the route forward until we can convene in a traditional way.  Several Club members used the Zoom event to share the wines with friends either by decanting (and enjoying in separate homes) or tasting together but at a suitable distance.  Your support for the Club and comments received are really appreciated.


Please do let us know if a Zoom event again appeals by contacting:


As soon as the Club can safely return to tastings, we shall advise.  We have carried out a ‘risk assessment’ as we wish members and their guests to be totally safe.


Our plans include Barossa (regarded as the heart of the Australian wine industry), wines under the auction hammer and the fruit-friendly wines of New Zealand.


Our galactic event will be the vertical tasting through no less than eight vintages of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild.  The estate stands alone in its feat of being the only chateau from the 1855 Medoc classification to change status.  It gained its richly deserved first growth elevation in 1973 after a 21 year campaign for such recognition by Philippe de Rothschild.


Fewer people have passed the gruelling Master of Wine examinations than have qualified as astronauts.  The Club is therefore delighted that most of these events will be tutored by MWs.  They include Andy Howard, a noted Decanter Magazine columnist, Peter McCombie, one of the senior judges of the International Wine Challenge, and Christopher Burr, a wine auctioneer who has discovered some of the world’s finest cellars.


Fewer people have passed the gruelling Master of Wine examinations than have qualified as astronauts.  The Club is therefore delighted that most of these events will be tutored by MWs.  They include Andy Howard, a noted Decanter Magazine columnist, Peter McCombie, one of the senior judges of the International Wine Challenge, and Christopher Burr, a wine auctioneer who has discovered some of the world’s finest cellars.



Wine News


Champagne:  A dramatic reduction in the amount allowed to be harvested in Champagne has been made.  For the 2020 crop, the grape equivalent of 100 million bottles compared with the usual harvest has been enforced.


Picking started early on August 18 with growers and makers agreed on a yield of 8,000 kilos per hectare. This should produce 230m bottles. Usually the farmers make 10,800kg/ha, which is enough to create 315m bottles.


Few realise that the average vineyard is only three hectares (7.41 acres). This means the average Champagne farmer will see their annual income fall by more than 43,000 euros.



Japan:  A train station in the Japanese city of Shiojiri is to release the first wine made from vines planted on its platforms in 1988.  The city is located in Japan’s central Nagana prefecture, home to such wine districts as Chikumagawa and Tenryugawa, best known for Merlot.


The station staff planted a ‘vineyard’ on platforms three and four as a way to promote local wine to tourists.  Its Merlot and Niagara vines are trained on pergolas.  Until now the grapes were either given to visitors or used for research but last year it was decided to make wine to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Shiojiri’s elevation to city status.  The result is 100 bottles, which were made at a local winery.



Sassicaia:  Check the source of Italy’s famous Tuscan red before buying after police seized a gang who have been passing off cheap Sicilian red as Sassicaia.  The fake wine was discovered when a case fell off a delivery lorry.



Porto:  Adrian Bridge, known to many Red Herrings for his excellent Port tastings, has seen his dream to expand tourism in Portugal’s second city, Porto, succeed.  ‘The World of Wine’ – a temple dedicated to bacchanalian culture – has opened.  It contains six museums (from fashions and fabrics to a wine experience with mock alleyways and a fake sky, a giant replica cork tree, a glass case filled with ancient drinking vessels dating from 7,000BC) and an open-air piazza with views over the city that sits on top of the cellars.


The complex lies on the sloping southern bank of the river Douro and includes nine restaurants and a chocolate factory.  Adrian is Chief Executive of The Fladgate Partnership which owns such distinguished Port houses as Croft, Fonseca and Taylor as well as Portugal’s leading hotel, The Yeatman, in Vila Nova de Gaia.



Quiz  Time



How many glasses were used to create the world’s tallest Champagne fountain, how many bottles opened and what height was recorded?

(Answer will be provided in due course on the News page of our website)



The answer to:  Where would you find a glass or gold ‘barrel’ to ferment and mature wine?  is available lower down this page.



Message from Club Chairman, Conal Gregory, Master of Wine



The Red Herring Wine Club intends to resume our tutored tastings as soon as it is safe.  We are fully mindful that this must be when there is a clear green light.


Whilst the Government may permit small gatherings, this allowance is not likely to enable the Club to resume.  Clearly the distance between pouring and a glass has to be considered as well as our likely numbers in relation to the venue sizes and their facilities.


This is frustrating as prior to the lockdown the Club had one of its most exciting range of subjects, speakers and venues prepared.


Once it is safe, we intend to hold our vertical tasting of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild.  Our speaker – Andy Howard, Master of Wine – has agreed to tutor the event.


In the pipeline, the Club has top NZ wines from Yealands and an opportunity to hear (and taste) wines for auction by the internationally respected Master of Wine, Christopher Burr.  Austria and the southern Italian province of Campania with the star red Taurasi will be delights for the future.


As the Club has not been able to meet for several months, we will extend your subscription on a comlpimentary basis (from March until we can resume).



With quiz games all the rage, I thought a wine question might appeal:


Where is the most northerly vineyard in the world?


Where is the most southerly wine in the world?  It is not planted in Argentina, Chile or New Zealand.  The answers are below.

Quiz Answers


The answers to they quiz questions posed above and on our home page are:



How many glasses were used to create the world's tallest champagne fountain, how many bottles were opened and what height was recorded?


Pascal Leclerc Briant, head of a family Champagne house based in Epernay, created a fountain of 44 tiers of glasses at the Biltmore Hotel, Los Angeles, on June 18 1984.  It reached 28ft 8in in height and consisted of 14,404 flutes.  He used 8,000 bottles to create the flow of Champagne!



Most wine is fermented and matured in wood or stainless steel but where would you find glass or gold instead?


A glass one was made for Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey (1er Cru Classe, Sauternes) to mark the estate’s 400th birthday.  The 225 litre ‘barrel’ was created by Lalique and held approximately 300 bottles. It took two years to design and build.  Incidentally, Lefaurie-Peyraguey is one of the most spectacular properties in Bordeaux with 13th century fortifications and 17th century buildings in the Hispano-Byzantine style.


A gold ‘barrel’ was invented by the Champagne house of Leclerc-Briant, a family firm based in Epernay. Founded in 1872, it has substantial vineyards covering 30ha as well as buying in grapes.


The barrel, constructed by GD Industries, holds 228 litres of wine.  Made of stainless steel, it is lined with 24 carat gold, applied using electrolysis.  The initial trial was with the 2016 harvest and the plan is to release the wine next year.  Leclerc-Briant say there is “a resonance between solar energy and wine” and that the gold will increase the level of solar activity during the first fermentation.  Let’s see if the wine lives up to marketing hype!



Where is the steepest vineyard in the world?


The vines are planted at a perilous 68 degree angle, making harvest time a hair-raising endeavour.  The location is Bremmer Calmont, a single vineyard above the small town of Bremm on the northern side of the Mosel river in Germany.  Most of the site is planted with Riesling.  Harvesters scale the vines using a network of chairs on rails.


If you would like to taste it, seek Walter Oster’s off-dry Riesling from vines grown on mineral-rich shale.  Look for aromas of lemon, flowers and petrol which combine with a palate of high acidity and a long lime finish.


For comparison, escalators on the London Underground have a maximum 30 degree decline (with Angel station on the Northern line and Bank branch having the longest escalator at 24.4m).  The Douro of northern Portugal has 53% of the world’s steepest vineyards with 18,000ha with a gradient of at least 30 degrees!



The most northerly vineyard is is Lerkekasa vineyard, 100m above sea level, in Norway.  It lies at 59˚  degrees N, making it more northerly than Alaska’s southern border (54.4˚  N).  The vines are planted in a small valley in a former glacier facing Lake Norsjo. Odd and Lill Wolberg grow Solaris and Hasanski Sladki varieties for an appealing pink wine.



The most southerly wine in the world ?  It is not planted in Argentina, Chile or New Zealand.  The answer will be provided here on the Club's website in due course.


In response tomember enquiries, the Club now has the facility for payments to be mde online.

The Club's banking details are:


Bank:                      Barclays Bank plc


Sort Code:              20-17-35


Account Number:   23429539



However, if paying this way, it is essential that we know who is paying and for what.


Therefore, your reference should be as follows:


T for one tasting ticket for the next event    (TT for  two, TTT for three)
G for guest ticket    (GG for two guest tickets)
C for concessionary younger member rate    (under 35 years)
M for one membership    (MM for two annual memberships)
W for a wine purchase followed by the selection letter where applicable such as A, B

If using this method, please advise of your transaction(s) by separate email(s)  as follows:




Tastings:  (please complete and return either the coupon on the circular or the on-line application on the Events and Tastings page as usual)



The Club continues to welcome payment by cheque but personal, not business, cheques only please.  Cheques must be made payable to "The Red Herring Wine Club".



The Club asks that members and guests dress smartly when attending tastings as many of our venues are prestigious and have dress codes.  Gentlemen are asked to wear a jacket and tie.  Please remember to inform your guests in advance of the event.


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