September Newsletter

August Meeting

Cathy and I were in the Far East and didn't attend. However, Philip wrote the report:

At the September meeting Les Maskrey gave another interesting talk, with tastings, of wines from unusual grapes. There was only one white, this being a Sicilian from the "Grillo" grape and worth trying (Waitrose £7.20). The first red was a Chilean from the "Pais" grape. Originally from Spain, it was a rustic table wine but the quality has improved and the example from Majestic was light and fruity; but, although likened to a good Beaujolais, I did not find this a fair comparison. The second red, from Austria, came from the "Blauer Zweigheit" grape. Unfortunately, Les purchased this in Southend but it is worth looking locally for wines from this grape, which are fruity with a hint of spice. This was followed by a Spanish wine from Alicante from the "Monastrell" grape. This grape is also known as "Mourvedre", which might be easier to find. I found it very aromatic. Another Spanish wine followed from the "Bobal" grape. Not well known, this grape is the third most planted variety. I found this a very fruity wine with enough tannin for further development. It was my favourite (Majestic £9.89). Finally, Les gave us a Puglian wine from a grape named "Susumaniello". This is produced by one of Laithwaite's favourite producers and was a very hefty tipple of black fruit flavours. All of these generally unknown grapes were grown for home consumption and were mostly heavy and rustic table wines. New producers are now making lighter, fruitier wines as they seek export markets. Our thanks to Les for seeking out six of the more available examples for the tasting. And then, as a bonus, Les produced a Majestic wine from Portugal ("Porta 6 Reserva") which he recommended we look out for on the November French Trip.

That's The Spirit!

Tequila, produced in Mexico, is made from a cactus! This is the blue agave plant which abounds in that country. The jimadores (harvesters of the plant) regularly trim the central stalk to prevent the plant from flowering and dying early. This encourages a growth called a piña (pineapple) which contains lots of polymeric fructose or fruit sugar. This is analogous to starch in grains and seeds. After the piñas are harvested, they are roasted to convert the polymeric fructose into fermentable sugars. After baking, the piñas are crushed and fermented. Natural yeasts convert the pulp sugars into a wort containing 3 - 5% alcohol. This is then doubly or triply distilled to give the final product - which may contain between 28 - 65% alcohol along with other higher alcohols and aldehydes which give tequila its distinctive taste. Most Mexicans prefer to drink their tequila neat - it is a nonsense developed by foreigners (who ought to know better) that tequila is drunk by placing salt on a moistened hand, swigging the liquid in one gulp, then chewing on a piece of lime! Another nonsense is the myth of the "tequila worm". This is utterly non-traditional. Tequila is simply a mescal - and the inclusion of a "tequila worm" is a modern marketing gimmick. The "worm" is actually the larval form of a moth which lives on the agave plant. Interestingly, the presence of this larva indicates an infestation which can actually reduce the amount of fermentable sugar. It is easy to understand why producers sought to turn a calamity into an opportunity!

And A Tequilla Sunrise To Accompany It

Everybody's heard of this one! However, what we traditionally associate with tequila sunrise - the orange and grenadine combination - is not, actually, the original version. The original tequila sunrise uses lime juice and soda water with the "sunrise" effect provided by cassis and not grenadine. Nobody is quite aware of why the original version came to be supplanted, but, actually, it is much more refreshing! Both versions are included here. As with all cocktails, quantities are a matter of personal taste. "New version": add 1½ oz of tequila to a glass filled with ice. Pour in 3 oz of fresh orange juice and then gradually add ½ oz of grenadine down the side of the glass. It will pool at the bottom - do NOT stir! Garnish with orange and maraschino cherry. "Original recipe": add juice of half a lime to a glass of ice. Add 1½ oz of tequila and top up with soda water. Pour ½ oz of cassis down the side of the glass. Then garnish with lime and maraschino cherry. On the left, Cathy has the "new" version. The right shows the original.

Next Month's Meeting (October)

We have a talk by Stuart Robinson on the plague city and village. Knowing absolutely nothing about Stuart's talk in advance, all I can do is speculate that it might be about Eyam in Cheshire. The villagers of Eyam imposed a quarantine upon themselves when bubonic plague broke out during the  mournful years of the mid-seventeenth century. For supplies, they would leave vinegar soaked coins at a nearby well, which the local population would collect in return for food. Eyam survived - and it became an iconic example of selflessness. This must be a talk worth attending!

Open Show 2017

This took place on September 9. The results are promulgated with this newsletter, but special mention must be made of Pujan Dhar who managed to secure four cups at the event. Thanks are due to Lin and Sylvia who, as usual, produced an excellent lunch for the judges and the officials who ran the show. And, of course, there would be no Open Show at all without the myriad of helpers who make it happen; not least Bob Dye - the show convenor - whose tireless efforts are, once again, appreciated by all. Thanks to everyone!

Competition Results


  • Dry: 1st Tom Rix; 2nd Les Maskrey

  • Medium: 1st Les Maskrey; 2nd Tom Rix

  • Sweet: 1st Les Maskrey; 2nd Tom Rix

    Quarterly (sweet white)

  • 1st Tom Rix; 2nd Tom Rix 3rd Les Maskrey

    Thanks to the judges - Carol and Peter.

For Sake's Sake!

In keeping with my Far East theme this month, it seems appropriate to comment on the UK's first ever sake brewery which opened in Cambridgeshire in September 2016 (Telegraph - Monday 29 August 2016). The 200-acre Fordham Abbey estate was granted permission by East Cambridgeshire council to begin production of the alcoholic drink made from water and fermented rice. Dojima, the Japanese brewer, recently bought the estate for £3.5 million and invested £8.9 million in the scheme. They claim the brewery will have a staff of over 100 in the next five years. Sake brewing is thought to date back almost two millenia and the company uses recipes dating back more than 600 years.

Gripes Of Wrath

Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council granted a licence to Henry Boorman of the Redhill Farm Estate in Wateringbury to sell his wines online. However, objections by his mother led to proceedings against him for causing a nuisance to the farm's residents. His mother claims it's all very "sad".

Confuscius Say...

We have recently returned from a trip to the Far East. I was able to see my boyhood home in Singapore. How different it seems after all these years! Anyway, we started off  in Shanghai. A wonderful city of 26 million inhabitants. That's larger than most countries! We picked up a book of Confuscius' sayings: he was a wise old sage and spoke of many things: modesty, courtesy and friendship among them. Wise old boy Connie, your sayings were written over two and a half thousand years ago - but they still ring true today...

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