November Newsletter

November Meeting

Marion Regan of Hugh Lowe Farms gave a fascinating talk on soft fruits and the running of her farm. The farm has been in the same family for 5 generations. Marion’s great-grandfather, Bernard Champion, started the business in 1893 when he purchased the land in Mereworth for the supply of soft fruit to the family’s stall at Covent Garden market. In the 1960’s three busloads of pickers would arrive each day from Tonbridge, Larkfield and Snodland. Until the 1970’s strawberries were grown in tight rows with straw in between each row. Polythene covering was introduced in the 1970’s and then polytunnels in the 1980’s to prolong the season. Nowadays strawberries are grown at table top height and mainly picked by EU workers living on site. Raspberries and blackberries are also grown on the farm. High Lowe Farms are suppliers to Waitrose, Tesco, M&S and Morrisons. They are also the sole supplier of strawberries to Wimbledon – some 30 tons in 2 weeks.  Marion informed us that ⅓ of land is allocated for fruit, ⅓ for arable farming where they are currently looking for ways of sequestering carbon from the soil and ⅓ for meadows and woodland.

Judging by the response after the talk from members’ personal anecdotes of the mid-20th century fruit picking era to current environmental issues, this was a most interesting and informative presentation.


Wine of the Evening

Dry: 1st Les Maskrey, 2nd Les Maskrey, 3rd Tom Rix

Sweet: 1st Les Maskrey, 2nd Tom Rix, 3rd Cathy Rishman

Judges: Wyn Priestley and John McCoy




It is time again for our Christmas party.  The evening will commence with another challenging quiz organised by our indomitable quizmaster, Les Bates. Afterwards there will be a buffet supper and a grand Christmas raffle.  Please can everyone bring a savoury or sweet dish for the buffet and wine.  Also, contributions towards the raffle would be most appreciated. 

OPEN SHOW - 28 March 2020

March appears to be a good month for the open show, as we will be able to run this event with our wines and beers being judged by Federation and National Judges. All winemakers and brewers please can you make some extra bottles of wines, liqueurs and beers to keep the judges busy!


This is a recipe for a medium sweet wine, which if started now should be ready for the open show.

Sweet Orange Wine, Fred Barnfather    

12 medium oranges

1 litre carton orange juice

3 lb / 1,400 grams sugar

Pectic enzyme

Yeast nutrient

Wine yeast

1 Campden tablet

Finings (optional)

(Option to increase orange flavour: Thinly peel or grate the orange rind from 6 of the oranges but do not include any white pith.)

1)      Prepare a syrup by dissolving the sugar in 2 pints of boiling water. Allow this to cool.

2)      Cut the oranges in half and extract the juice; put though a coarse sieve to remove any solids. Add the optional orange skin pieces and the carton of juice and top up with water to about ½ gallon. Add the pectic enzyme, yeast nutrient and yeast. When the mixture starts to ferment add the cooled sugar solution in 2 or 3 doses over about 7 days stirring daily. Strain through a fine sieve into a demijohn, add cold water to the shoulder and fit an airlock.

3)      When fermentation has ceased, rack the wine, top up with water and keep at room temperature. When the wine is clear and stable, siphon into a second demijohn, add the crushed Campden tablet, top up with water and keep in a cool place. If the wine is not completely clear after about two weeks add wine finings.

4)      When the wine is clear and showing no sign of fermentation, siphon and bottle.


It is with much sadness that I have to inform you that Marjorie Moffat died on 10 November. Marjorie was the wife of the founder member of Tonbridge Winemakers, John Moffat. Over the years Marjorie was a very active club member who gave many talks, mainly on France, which often included wine and cheese tastings. The photo above shows Marjorie toasting Tonbridge Winemakers at the 40th Annual Dinner. Marjorie was an accomplished linguist who for many years taught French at the Weald of Kent Grammar School. A few years ago she moved to Essex to be closer to her family, but kept in touch with us as an “out of town” club member.



NAWB Annual National Show, AGM and Conference Friday - Sunday 20-22 March 2020 Britannia Royal Court Hotel, Coventry

The hotel is a Grade II listed manor house set in landscaped gardens 3 miles from Coventry city centre.

Price: £120 per person for 2 nights B&B including a 2-course dinner on the Friday and a dinner dance with a 3-course dinner on the Saturday. Optional Sunday lunch is available for £10.  No single room supplement.  There will be a total of 87 wine and beer classes at the show. If this event is of interest please follow these links or contact me for printed copies:

NB: The closing date for booking a room is 6 February and the closing date for menu choices is 5 February.

Sussex Federation of Winemakers Seminar

1-3 February 2019, Eastbourne

Ken Lloyd, one of our open show judges and a member of the Sussex Federation, has asked me to remind everyone about this popular event.  If you would like to attend please contact me for further details.


Valdobbiadene, Conegliano or simply Prosecco

Daily Mail: Makers of Italy’s finest sparkling wines from the Veneto region of northern Italy have removed the word “prosecco” from their labels saying the newer vineyards have cheapened the name and cashed in on the drink’s popularity. They are now calling their sparkling wines Valdobbiadene and Conegliano after the traditional source of the wine. This move has been influenced by scathing remarks from Russell Norman, founder of the Polpo Venetian restaurants, who labelled prosecco as a drink for “wearers of novelty T-shirts” and “hordes of daytime drinkers”.

Maybe these are fine wines, but I think “prosecco” is much easier to pronounce than “Valdobbiadene”.

(Article kindly supplied by Bob Dye)


BBC unfairly linking Pubs and Ale to Binge Drinking

Daily Telegraph: CAMRA has asked the BBC to stop using images of cask ales to illustrate stories about binge drinking. This follows the BBC East Midlands Today programme where a shot of Castle Rock Brewery’s Harvest Ale being poured was shown alongside unconscious people being treated by paramedics. The brewery criticised the BBC saying “pubs, bars and beers are all tarred with the same brush and demonised via association with binge drinking”, instead they should be focusing “on the more prevalent causes of binge drinking – such as the availability of cheap supermarket booze”.

£55,300 for a Pint!

Daily Mail: in June I wrote about a group of dinners at the Hawksmoor Restaurant, Manchester ordering a bottle of wine worth £260, but being given one worth £4,500 in error. This month I have a similar story to report about an error at another Manchester hotel. Australian cricket writer, Peter Lalor, was staying at the Malmaison, Manchester while reporting on the Ashes and was charged £55,300 for a bottle of Deuchars IPA. It was only after the transaction had gone through that he discovered the error. He was surprised that the bank had allowed the payment to be processed, however he has been informed that a refund would be issued within 9 days. The beer is normally sold at £5.50 and it is thought that the bar worker mis-typed the price. Peter Lalor commented: “It’s a good beer. The original version of it won a heap of awards … but if you are thinking that no beer is worth the best part of 100,000 Australian dollars then I am inclined to agree.”

(Article kindly supplied by Bob Dye) 


Waitrose are selling Christmas eggs, whatever next!


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Latest comments

07.09 | 09:09

would the lady in hildenborough supply me with a demijon i live in hilden borough

02.09 | 11:53

Hi Linda - Thank you for your kind offer. I have contacted our members and will let you know if anyone is interested. Best wishes, Cathy Rishman

01.09 | 16:45

Hi - we have a vine that has produced quite a good few grapes this year.
The grapes are red, small and sweet would anyone be interested in them?
Can send photo

13.03 | 12:56

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

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