February Newsletter


It was my turn to give the talk this month.  I brought along a few bottles of wines and liqueurs made from less commonly used ingredients or unusual combinations of ingredients for tasting.  We had two dry whites -apple & elderflower, greengage & white currant; a dry red made from Morello cherries, elderberries, raspberries & strawberries; two sweet whites – hawthorn berry and hop.  Then to round off the evening there were tastings of quince liqueur and vanilla gin. I am pleased to report that everyone seemed to enjoy the tastings.  Comments sheets were distributed to members, who demonstrated excellent judging skills, as many were able to detect the elderflower in the apple & elderflower wine and someone even detected the small quantity of ginger used in the hop wine. The hawthorn berry was the most popular wine, with the greengage & white currant being a close second. The hop wine was regarded as an interesting wine, with its beery bouquet, yet with very little beer flavour. The dry red wine was voted OK, but rather thin. Members tended to prefer the quince liqueur to the vanilla gin, as a few people found the vanilla to be overpowering.


 Wine of the Evening

Dry: 1st Tom Rix, 2nd Andrew Stanhope, 3rd Cathy Rishman

Sweet: 1st Les Maskrey, 2nd Tom Rix, 3rd Bob Dye

Judges: Carol Hughes and Les Bates

Next Month's Meeting (March)

Club member and accomplished winemaker, Tom Rix, will be giving a talk with a winemaking demonstration and tastings on a selection of his favourite homemade wines - Thursday 7 March.


WoE (dry and sweet classes)


The Annual Dinner will be held on Friday 26 April, at a cost of £30 per head.  The menu for your selections is attached. Please return the tear-off section and cheque to Les by 31 March; this allows the hotel to know the exact number for which they are catering. The wine list will be distributed with the next newsletter. Please let Les know your choice of wine so the hotel is aware of the number of bottles they need to reserve. The wine is paid for on the night and is not included in the cost for the dinner.


The AGM will be taking place on 4 April - and we need a new committee! This year we are desperately looking for a competitions secretary and/or general committee member, as a long-serving committee member will be stepping down. Please find attached the nomination form for committee members. This form needs to be returned to me by the last week in March please. Don't forget: if you wish to nominate someone - get their permission first!


Many of you were aware that there was only one national judge present at the 2018 Open Show.  This was caused by many judges being away on holiday and a couple of late cancellations.  Fortunately, Bob Dye was able to put together a good team from our members, but this is an open show and the committee feels it is important that the judging is carried out by national judges. September does seem to be a popular month for holidays, as confirmed in an email to Geoff from the NAWB. The committee have written to all our local judges requesting their preferred months for judging.  In the light of their responses we are going to try and run our next show in the spring of 2020 – possibly 18 or 25 April.  Unfortunately, this means that there will be no show in 2019, but on the plus side this will give us extra time to make more wines and enter a few extra bottles at the show.    


I find breadmaking a daunting task with all the kneading and proofing involved.  Recently I discovered a really easy recipe for beer bread where none of that nonsense is required.  I use Geoff’s wheat beer, but any type of craft lager would work just as well.

Beer Bread

500g strong white plain flour

3 tbsp sugar (optional)

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/4 tsp salt

340ml lager beer

2 tbsp olive oil + extra for oiling tin

1) Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6. Coat a 20cm loaf tin with olive oil.

2) In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar (for a sweetish tasting bread), baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Make a well in the centre and pour in the beer and olive oil. Mix until just blended.

3) Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes, until golden brown.



Fine Dining Evenings at West Kent College

West College have reinstated their Thursday night fine dining and themed menus at the Artisan Restaurant. By all accounts they are every bit as good as they were several years ago. The next event is a 5-course fine dining evening at £20 per head on Thursday 28 February


Theories on the Origins of Sparkling Wines

Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph: Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, head of Taittinger Champagne and an unashamed Anglophile declared in a recent interview with Le Figaro that sparkling wines were invented by the English: “They [the English] created champagne because of a mistake. Benedictine monks were supplying them with still wines from Champagne, red and white wines.  The English left these inexpensive wines on the London docks and they got cold, so they started undergoing a second fermentation (causing them to become carbonated). Like all mistakes it led to a great invention.”

Both newspapers reported it is generally acknowledged that a monk named Dom Pierre Pérignon invented the first sparkling wine in the 17th century. Christopher Merret, an English physician, wrote a paper in 1662 where he described the process of adding sugar to the wine to carbonate it, méthode champenoise, although he didn’t claim to have invented the drink.

Although Mr Taittinger’s comments will not settle the disputes on the origins of champagne, it must be acknowledged that the English played an important role in popularising the drink by promoting it as an essential accompaniment to celebrations such as weddings worldwide. 

Unsurprisingly a couple of days after the article was published two lettersappeared in the Daily Telegraph from readers postulating their own theories on the origins of sparkling wines.  Kim Scudamore dismissed the idea of the bottles on the quayside as pure serendipity. In the mid-17th century very little French wine would have been imported due to laws passed by Oliver Cromwell and Charles II and it would have been in casks which would not have allowed the fizz to have held.  Men such as Sir John Scudamore (no doubt a forebear of the writer) who applied their knowledge of apple varieties and fermentation to produce ciders that could be bottled in the new toughened glass of that time, Kim Scudamore claims, should be regarded as the founders of champagne.

Brian Merritt, in another letter, informs us that it was the Benedictine monks of St Hilaire, near Limoux, France, who added the fizz to wine in 1531. Apparently, this is the oldest sparkling wine in the world and is sold in UK supermarkets as Cremant de Limoux or Blanquette de Limoux.

The English outstrip the Scots for Distilleries

Daily Telegraph: The trend for craft gin has caused an upsurge in the number of distilleries in England. In 2018 there were a total of 361 in Britain of which 166 were in England and 160 in Scotland. This compares to figures issued in 2017 of 135 distilleries in England and 149 in Scotland.

Miles Beale, the chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) said: “It lifts the spirits to hear that distillery numbers continue to grow in the UK. It’s not just our gins picking up awards – we have also seen a growing number of excellent quality English and Welsh whiskies too.  It is extremely reassuring that our talented spirit makers are continuing to innovate, invest and grow.”


This month the newsletter has been distributed earlier than usual as Geoff and I are going on a short holiday to Oslo (and Copenhagen) where we will be sampling Oslo craft beer. Incidentally this beer can also be enjoyed at Fuggles Beer Cafe, Tonbridge!

Write a new comment: (Click here)

Characters left: 160
DONE Sending...
See all comments

| Reply

Latest comments

13.03 | 12:56

anyone interested in 4x 50 litre wine carboys. I stopped making wine about 15 years ago. open to offers.

16.01 | 20:27

Same you only allow 160 caricatures on your site I would like to wright more !!!

16.01 | 15:40

Thank you for your kind comments. You are more than welcome to join us at one of our meetings - the first Thursday of each month.

16.01 | 15:26

Hi There I have just come across your website ...and very impressed, you seem to be a well organised club with monthly events and good membership BRAVO

You liked this page