Dalton Wine Circle

Dalton Wine Circle – 2019 Programme 


                                                 Chairman                                                                                                                                                                  Secretary

                                      Ann Marchbanks                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Chris Flowers


                                         T: (01325) 718355                                                                                           



                                                                         T: (01325) 377381       

DATE                        EVENT (Organiser)                                            COMPETITION        


                     RAFFLE PRIZE PROVIDED BY 

JAN 22nd                  Burns Night Supper (Ann & Jackie)                  Quiz (Marian)           



          Marian Clarkson

FEB 26th                    Domino Drive (Marian) with Pie & Pea supper                                  



           Stephanie Allen                  

MAR 26th                   Wine Tasting (Ian M.)                                      Ian M.                      




Alison Brown

APR 16th *                 Home Made Cocktails (Chris W.)                      Vote for favourite      




Pat Craddock

MAY 28th                   Stories from alcohol (Sharman)                        Vote for favourite      




Fiona Parker

JUNE 25th                  Botanicals for Gin                                            Vote for favourite      




 Sheila Wappat                   

JULY 23rd                 Summer B.B.Q. at Marian’s                              Summer Buttonhole 




Libby Mitton

SEP 24th                  Wine Tasting (Allan F.)                                     Allan F.                    


OCT 6th – 10th          Hampshire Wine Tour




Michelle Hammond 

OCT 22nd                A.G.M & Monthly Meeting                                                                 




Jackie Braithwaite                                    

NOV 26th                   “Up The Douro” Wine Tasting (Mike & Sandra) Mike                        




Sandra Chappel

DEC                           Christmas Dinner                                                                           




Club to provide

   * THIRD Tuesday – not 4th – because of Easter dates  

Competition winners will receive a trophy at the AGM to keep for a year.


Meetings are held in Dalton and Gayles Village Hall at 7.30 p.m. unless indicated above.


Present day members hold monthly meetings which take the form of wine tastings, or a talk on wines or a quiz and there is always plenty of wine and supper to enjoy and share. Occasionally these days there might be a demonstration on making wine however not many members now make their own wines. 

Periodically a brewery or a vineyard in the north of England might also be visited. Since the year 2000 tours to vineyards, by coach, have been arranged and have included three in the south of England, one to the Champagne region of France and two to vineyards in the Burgundy and Alsace regions of France. 

History of the Wine Circle

The inaugural meeting of the Dalton Wine Making Circle was held on April 16th 1970 at 7.30 pm in Dalton & Gayles Village Hall. Eighteen people attended and apologies were received from five.

The Chairman of the Parish Council introduced two guests Mr & Mrs Blacklock, who were members from Heighington Wine Club, and opened the meeting. Mrs Blacklock explained to the meeting how a Wine Circle was run and the benefits to members from attending the meetings and the benefits of being affiliated to the National Association of Wine Making Federation. Following a lengthy discussion it was agreed that The Dalton Wine Making Circle be formed. The first wine to be made at the newly formed Wine Circle was a rice and raisin wine which was demonstrated to the meeting by Mr & Mrs Blacklock who then kindly donated a tray as a trophy which is still presented annually and referred to as the Blacklock Trophy.

Founder members were Dalton residents Mrs Alice Dent (postmistress), Nancy Collinson (Broaches Farm), Mr & Mrs Sidney Fisher (Dalton House), Eric Coulthard of Barnard Castle & Mr & Mrs J T Powell of Richmond.
After the first three years, members had started to amass a collection of home-made wines and beers it was decided that a show would be held by the Circle one Saturday afternoon. Classes included wine, beer, larger, liqueur and many home baking classes as well as classes for children. With entries accepted from approximately nine other clubs, as far away as Stockton, Redcar and Whitley Bay there were as many as 600 bottles on display at the show. The show day ended with a supper dance at night which was well attended.

A total of 14 trophies, which were collected over the years, are held by the Wine Circle and awarded. Even though the wine club shows have ceased a Summer Supper Dance is still held and other wine club members are invited to join us.

Members were invited to other clubs to share in their meetings, dances and shows and the Federation had a big show once a year. 

Chairman’s Report Oct 2014

November 2013 saw the start of the year 2013/14 with a tasting provided by Palejay wines. Arthur Cook, the British owner of a vineyard in the Rhone Valley of France since 2007, provided a tasting of his red and white wines which are sold locally at Richmond Market..

The December meeting was a very pleasurable Christmas dinner at the Shoulder of Mutton at Kirby Hill. As usual we had almost a full attendance of members present. Alan Sherwood won the competition..

In January we held our annual Burns night supper. The quiz was won by Jackie Braithwaite.

In February we had a domino drive organised by Marion and thoroughly enjoyed by members and eventually won by Dorothy Gilbert.

In March 16 members and their guests attended another very enjoyable 3 course dinner and 4 champagne tastings at 29 Frenchgate in Richmond under the guidance of Eric the sommelier.

The March meeting featured guests from Teeside Wine Circle who joined us for a tasting of Loire wines organised by Alan Flowers and Ian Marchbanks. The competition to guess the price of the wines was won by Linda Sherwood.

April was the annual cocktail tasting at Neil’s pub in Barningham. The competition to guess the contents of Neil’s special cocktail was won by Jackie Braithwaite.

In April 30 members plus others travelled to the Loire Valley for a 6 day tasting tour including visits to some of the beautiful chateaux.

May Simon Wrightson of Wrightson Wines came to Dalton to provide a tasting of 6 Spanish and Bordeaux wines.

June, 58 members and guests enjoyed a ceilidh and buffet supper at the annual dance.

July BBQ at Chris and Sharman’s in Cleasby was attended by 18 members, fortunately the weather stayed fair and everyone had an enjoyable time.

September 20 members and guests attended a guided tour and enjoyed an excellent meal at Black Sheep Brewery in Masham. Michelle Herdman won the competition. Thanks to Sheila for organising this event.

Many thanks to all members who arranged food, events and raffles, also to Chris, our Treasurer and Sheila, our Secretary for their hard work. Thanks to all members for making 2014 such a successful year.

Past Events

Journey to the Loire Valley - April 24th-30th 2014

Our transport by Eddie Brown Coaches with driver Paul took us to Hull for our ferry crossing over to Zeebrugge on Thursday 24th April. We sailed over night in very relaxing mode ready for the long drive through Belgium and France to our ultimate destination in the Loire.

The Loire is over 1000miles long so it is important to define the exact area that we were visiting. Our base was in Blois, the eastern most point of the Touraine region. This 60 mile stretch of river is one of the most beautiful sections of the wide, meandering Loire and its tributaries, the Cher and Indre. There are countless historical chateaux and vineyards to visit. Our organisers had done their homework to present us with an appealing range.

This time of year also presented a pleasing sight of copious blossom in the hedgerows and gardens, with lilac, laburnum and wisteria being particularly attractive and in full bloom. The fresh new leaves on the vines were already showing that spring had arrived early, and we were blessed with mild weather.

Friday 25th April

Our first vineyard visit was made before we even reached our hotel! At 4.30pm. we arrived at Domaine des Huards just south-east of Blois in an area known as Cour- Cheverny. We were met by Paulina, the eighth generation of the Gendrier family and with an excellent command of the English language.

She immediately took us to a small parcel of vines to explain the viticulture. The weather is very unpredictable in this area so all sorts of methods have been instigated to protect the plants. For instance we could see large canes interspersed throughout the rows which could spray water over the 30acres when it is frosty. An alarm alerts the vineyard when the temperature drops so they turn on the motors to feed water into the tubes. The water forms an ice cocoon round the buds, like an igloo, which stops them freezing. Spraying continues until mid-morning so the buds do not have a thermal shock

The vineyard has been biodynamic since 1998 which means there is a minimum of chemicals used. Very small doses of sulphur and copper are used for diseases and a white nettle spray protects against mildew. Natural plants are allowed to grow between every other row to attract insects away from the vines.

The AOC regulations require the correct pruning of the vines with no more than eleven eyes or buds left on the main and secondary branches. This regulates the quality of the grapes. They have also been asked to grow more pinot noir.

The main grapes grown are sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot noir, cabernet franc and gamay and a special grape unique to this area called romorantin. The terroir determines which variety is grown in each parcel of land. For instance there are pockets of clay, sand, chalk and schist. 200,000bottles are produced per year.

We were taken indoors to observe bottling in progress and view the stainless steel vats. The grapes are fermented separately and blended later. ‘Flags’ which looked like radiators were immersed in the tanks to control the temperature.

The unpredictable weather was responsible for no rose wine in 2012. A frost on April 17th 2012 of –7degrees ruined the crop. In 2013 everything had to be harvested in 8days as rain started to dilute the juice.


  1. Cour- Cheverny 100% Romorantin Romo 2010. This grape was brought from Burgundy in 1519. It is now the exclusive grape variety of the Cour Cheverny area.

  2. Cour –Cheverny 100% Romorantin Francois 1st 2007. 75 year old vines. Can keep for up to 20years!

  3. La Haute Pinglerie 85% sauvignon blanc, 15% chardonnay 2011. Fermented in oak barrels.

  4. Cheverny Red: Envol. 55%gamay, 30% pinot 15% cabernet franc. 2012

  5. Cheverny Red Le Vivier. 50% pinot, 40% gamay 10% cabernet franc. 2009. These grapes are from a special parcel surrounded by forest. Picked in the morning as afternoons are too hot. The pinot has been in oak barrels.

This winery certainly set the standard high for our wine tour and we all showed our delight in buying a good selection of wine and wishing Paulina good luck for the imminent birth of her baby who will be the 9th generation!

We finally arrived at our hotel Mercure Blois Centre at 7pm. Most of the group opted to eat in the restaurant after such a long day travelling.

Saturday, 26th April

An early start on the coach took us to the Chateau of Chenonceau, situated on the Cher tributary. We had just two hours to absorb the wonderful sights both inside the castle and out in the pretty landscaped gardens. A walk along the river path gave us a picturesque view of the arches on which the chateau stands. Limestone , a bright Touraine stone, was used to build these chateaux on the Loire and then cellars were carved out of the quarries to keep the wine in perfect condition.

The chateau was built in the 16th century and five queens influenced the architecture and furnishings. The bedrooms were beautifully decorated, and there was a wealth of grand four posters and furniture to admire. The kitchen had been decorated especially for the Easter season and there were some splendid displays of cut flowers.

Domaine Vigneau Chevreau
We continued to the city of Tours for a lunch stop where we all seemed to find some typical French dishes to sample. Then off we set for our next winery! This was the Domaine Vigneau Chevreau at Chancay north east of Tours. This 26 hectare estate established in 1875, lies in the Vouvray appellation region and it has been biodynamic for the last 20 years. It is run by two brothers, Stephene and Christophe.

Vouvray uses the chenin grape and there are four categories: dry, semi –dry, sparkling, and sweet. The vines are grown on two different sites. We were at the original vineyard on the flinty slopes where the vines grow deeper reaching the minerals which give chenin that special flavour. They own another vineyard at the Abbaye of Marmoutier which is on flat land near the river consisting of limestone and clay, giving a different taste.

We were shown around the cave and had the process of sparkling wine explained to us. The sparkling wine of Loire is less acid than Champagne and Cremant of Alsace.

80% grapes are picked by hand. In 2013 there was just 60% of normal production due to the hail in June which spoilt the flowers. They also lost 50% in 2012 due to frosts.


  1. Vouvray Tranquille 2012. Grown on the flinty slopes.

  2. Abbaye de Marmoutier 2012. Grown on limestone and clay.

  3. Vouvray Methode Traditionelle Brut. 2 years old

  4. Vouvray Method Traditionelle Brut Prestige. 4 years old.

  5. Abbaye de Marmoutier vouvray demi sec.2012. Small harvest will be sold out in two months time!

  6. Abbaye de Marmoutiere vouvray moelleux 2003. This was a good vintage for sweet wines as there were 40 days of hot weather that summer making the noble rot on the grapes.

A fantastic spread was offered during this tasting giving us the opportunity of tasting some local delicacies. Rillettes de Tours (pork speciality) goats’ cheese and a variety of salad and bread were very tempting. It was a shame we were still replete from lunch!

We were back at our hotel by 5.15pm where we had free time for a walk and the chance to search out suitable eating places for later in the evening.

Sunday 27th April

An even earlier start took us to Chateau D’Azay- Le- Rideau. The coach driver had fun negotiating the diversion through narrow streets due to a marathon being staged through the village that morning! Wet weather also plagued us so the supposedly most romantic chateau of the Loire looked a rather dismal grey sight. Most of the grounds were also off limits due to major refurbishment. However, the 16th century building did have some interesting rooms, notably the vast steep pitched attic, with original oak timberwork which formed the servants’ quarters. The aristocratic apartments had grand fireplaces and paintings. The French State acquired the property in 1905 after the last marquis was financially ruined.

Chateau de L'Aulee
We were pleased to move on a short distance up the road to our next vineyard visit at the Chateau de L’Aulee at 12 noon. We entered by the old domaine press room dating back to 1874, and were greeted by our hostess, Marielle Henrion. She and her husband bought the vineyard in 2004 after it gone bankrupt. It is still quite unusual for a female oeneologist to be in charge, and she explained that she was the daughter of a farmer in Champagne. She met her husband while studying and they decided to set up in this area. (Land in Champagne runs at 2 million euros per hectare, 200,000 euros in the Loire.)

The main grapes are chenin which makes sparkling and still white wine, and cabernet franc grown in Chinon. 250,000 bottles are produced per year of which 200,000 are sparkling. The last ten years have been challenging with the unpredictable weather. 40% of the harvest was lost in 2012 and 60% was lost in 2013 when the poor weather killed the flowers.

We were guided through the old building where concrete tanks used to hold the wine. These were used until 2008 when the bigger, cleaner stainless steel tanks were installed in vast new buildings.

A pneumatic press squeezes the grapes slowly and the white grapes go into tanks for the sediment to settle. Red wine goes directly into tanks for maturation and tannin flavour. They are controlled at 16-18 degrees C. Bottling takes place between May and September before the next harvest.

Sparkling wine has a second fermentation to make the bubbles. When the wine reaches 11% alcohol sugar is added. It is then capped and matured for two months. The best wine can be matured for longer.

The necks of the bottles are frozen to disgorge the sediment at –24 degrees for 10 minutes. Then the traditional cork and wire cage seals the bottle. Labelling only takes place when the bottles are about to be sold. 2009 has been the best year recently.

About 100,000 bottles are sold on site, but export business is growing with 35,000 bottles going to Japan and 25,000 bottles going to the UK.

Marielle was certainly a dynamic winemaker and her enthusiasm and pride shone through. We were led to a marquee which acted as the tasting room with dining facilities. We had two tastings before lunch and a further five tastings while we ate. Rillettes, goats’ cheese, salad and baguettes were on offer, followed by tarte tatin.


  1. Cremant de Loire AOC Brut Zero 12.5% Kept for 36-42 mths. Very pure, made from 100%hand picked chenin grapes. No added sugar.

  2. Cremant de Loire Intense. 80% chenin, 20% chardonnay. Commended by International Wine challenge 2012. Machine picked. 9 grams sugar per litre added.

  3. Intense Rose sparkling made with 100% cabernet franc grown near Chinon.

  4. Le Chateau Blanc AOC Azay le Rideau 2012 100% chenin.

  5. Le Chateau Rouge AOC Chinon 2012 100% cabernet franc.

  6. Vieilles Vignes (old vines) AOC Chinon 2012 12.5% 100% cabernet franc.

  7. Moelleux Blanc (sweet) 2005 100% chenin

This was a superb vineyard and once again several boxes of wine were purchased and loaded into the coach. Our enjoyment spilt over the time allotted and it was 3pm before we departed!

Our next stop was at Chateau Moncontour where we arrived late at about 3.50pm. This winery had a museum attached and we were advised to guide ourselves through it before our tasting. There were the usual viticultural and cooperage equipment on display set out in the cave cellars. We then gathered in the main room in anticipation of our tasting. Unfortunately we had very little attention paid to us. There seemed to be a lack of interest in talking to our group about the wines samples, so although we were offered three reasonable wines, very little purchases were made.


  1. Cuvee Vouvray 2010 Predilectual Brut 12% Grande Reserve.

  2. Vouvray Les Chapelles 2010 sec 12.5% 3mts in oak barrels.

  3. Chinon 2012 12.5%

We returned to our hotel by 6.15pm where we all made our various arrangements for dining in or out.

Monday, 28th April

Our destination this morning was Chateau Villandry, built on the southern bank of the Loire. The sun came out just long enough for us to be able to wander round the splendid gardens for which this chateau is especially renowned. Although the castle was built in the 16th century the present garden was restored to its former glory by a Spanish professor in the early 20th century.

There are six gardens set out in terraces of which the most beautiful was the ornamental garden where love was symbolised in symmetrical patterns. The best view of this was from the belvedere along from the castle. Boxwoods were pruned in the shape of hearts, fans, swords etc. emphasised by flowers. The kitchen garden was also spectacular and immaculate in its formal lay-out, containing boxwood and roses and featuring arbours and fountains.

Time was running out on us so we made a quick dash for the castle itself and managed to hurry through its beautiful rooms, not really doing it justice at all. However some of us did reach the turret where a magnificent view of the whole garden stretched before us.

We arrived at our next vineyard, Domaine Taluau et Foltzenlogel at 11.30am, greeted by Thierry Fitzenlogel (of Alsace origin) and an Englishman called Michael. Heour interpreter and guide and proved outstanding in his presentation.

The family of Taluau has been here since 1970 and were joined by the Foltzenlogels in 1993. There are 24 hectares here in the AOC of St Nicholas de Bourgueil and 4 hectares in Bourgueil Cabernet franc is the main grape growing on the gravelly banks of the Loire and the limestone of the hillsides.

Michael had a wonderful series of photographs depicting the calendar of the winemaker. In the spring the vines are budding and buckets of smoke are placed in the rows to prevent frost damage. The same system of cocooning the buds is carried out. Pruning takes place in July as the vines must not exceed 1.8 metres in height. Spraying for mildew takes place 5-8 times. Machine harvest takes place in September, although the older vines are not shaken. A mobile bottling plant visits the winery where up to 6000 bottles can be filled per hour. The wine is stored in the caves and taken to the shop 4 km away when needed.

The vineyards have to abide by strict AOC rules which were set up in 1935. The vines are inspected throughout the year. The quantity of wine produced is regulated as well as the strength of alcohol allowed. The minimum is 11.5% and the maximum is 13% In the perfect harvest of 2005 it meant special dispensation had to be given to allow wines of 13.5%. Sugar content is measured a few weeks before harvest so that a set date can be decided upon picking.

In 1957 a nuclear power station was built a few kilometres up the road. The population virtually doubled and there was a greater demand for wine. Therefore there was a surge of winemaking in the area.


  1. St Nicholas Bourgueil Le Espression 2012. from the gravely banks. 12.5%

  2. St Nicholas Bourgueil LeVau Jaumier 2012 from the limestone slopes. 12.5%

  3. St Nicholas Bourgueil Vieilles Vignes 2010 13.5% Fifty year old vines. Silky tannin.

  1. St Nicholas Bourgueil L’insoumise 2010. 13.3% Hand picked. Oak aged.

  2. St Nicholas Bourgueil Vieilles Vignes 2009 13.65% Hand picked. No oak. less tannic.

Maison Audebert et fils
After such a super visit it was time to move on. We went into the town of Chinon for a brief stop. Most of us had a ‘dessert de jour’ as we had to have a quick turnabout to reach our final vineyard visit, Maison Audebert et fils. Monsieur Audebert and his wife were waiting for us as the coach negotiated the tiny road between the parcels of vines.

We were taken inside the original cave, excavated in the 10th century. The quarry stone was used to build the church, and later became the cellar for the wine. A constant temperature of approx. 12degree C. is held. The family Audebert has been here since 1839 growing cabernet franc in the appellations St Nicholas Bourgueil and Bourgueil. The different soils of gravel on the flat land and clay on limestone on the slopes give different tastes to the grapes.


  1. Bourgueil Rose 2013 60% pressed, 40% run off juice. 12.5% Drink now.

  2. Bourgueil Rouge 2012. From flat land. 12.5% Drink young.

  3. St Nicholas Bourgueil 2011. 40-50 year old vines. 12.5% Keep for up to 10years. More concentrated and tannic.

  4. Domaine du Grand Clos 2010. Stored in oak barrels. “A wedding of grape parcels” where one waits for the other to be ready and brought together!

  5. Vignoble Les Marquises 2009. Aggressive when young but smooths with age. Sept 2009 was very dry, hence smaller grapes and more tannic and concentrated. 13% Will keep up to 25 years!

  6. Vignoble Les Marquises 1996. Made at the birth of his grandson! At eighteen years old this was drinking beautifully. Decant an hour before serving.

The coach drove us into the nearby village where we collected the wine that had been ordered at the cellar. From there we returned to our hotel for the final night. The following day saw the long trek back to Zeebrugge and the ferry crossing back to Hull. We shall be sampling our Loire wines for some time ahead with lovely memories of an area often under-estimated but a firm favourite of ours now.

Alsace Wine Tour Dalton Wine Circle, 6th – 11th October 2012 

Our group of twenty seven wine drinking enthusiasts boarded one of Eddie Brown’s coaches at various collection points to begin this special journey to Alsace. Our driver, Michael, drove us to Hull where we boarded The Pride of York P& O ferry just minutes to spare before it set sail for Zeebrugge. A comfortable night’s sleep saw us ready for the drive through Belgium, Luxemburg and France until we finally reached the northern part of the famous Alsace Wine route.

The Alsace Wine Route winds its way from north to south for more than 170kms along the eastern foothills of the Vosges Mountains. Their shelter makes the area the second driest in France and the sunny dry conditions are ideal for slow ripening of the vines.

Our first visit was at Scharrachbergheim at La Cave Du Roi Dagobert. We were greeted by a most amiable winegrower called Renaud whose task it was to show us round this huge co-operative. It was founded in 1952 and now had 300wine growers providing the grapes from approx. 900hectares of vineyards. It provides 9% of Alsace wines! It is the biggest single cellar in Alsace. Renaud explained how in Alsace there are seven recognised main varieties of grape grown:

Sylvaner, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Noir.

The basic AOC Alsace wines bear the name of the grape variety. There are 51 Grand Cru appellations given to exceptional clearly defined areas providing fine wines. These must be made from Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris or Gewurztraminer. Three grand crus were represented at this winery.

Renaud himself owned 2hectares of vineyards and grew all the varieties except Muscat. Harvesting had started 10th September, and all his grapes were now harvested. He also grew wheat and sweetcorn to supplement his farm income. Most of these small winegrowers did the same. The average holding is 5-7hectares.

The winery had grown hugely over recent years with constant additions of stainless steel. We saw 13 presses and many maturation tanks. A new project was under way to add an area specifically for cremants. The shop and tasting area had just been completed last year.

The Tasting

Riesling Lieu-dit Krittler 2009 12.5% A clean well balanced wine long on the palate,fruity, peachy.
Muscat 2011 12.5% (Colmar gold medal) Very scented. Floral, rosepetal.
Pinot Gris Vieilles Vignes (old vines) 2011 13.5% Good length and balance.
Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergbieten 2008 13.5%. Honeysuckle. Hint of sweetness
Pinot Gris 2007 Prestige Vendanges Tardives (late harvested) 13.5% Big heavy luscious.

This was a superb tasting in a new purpose built tasting room. We were also treated to an Alsace speciality, Kougelhopf, a sweet bread containing fruit and nuts baked in a mould, and dusted with icing sugar.

We had to tear ourselves away to continue along the road to Colmar and book into our hotel, The All Seasons, at 8.30pm. It was a bit of a scramble to find somewhere to eat as most restaurants close at 9pm. About half the group found a very handy Chinese restaurant just a few metres up the road.

Mon 8th Oct

We departed from the hotel at 9.15am to travel a short distance northwards to Ribeauville. Our visit was to La Cave de Ribeauville which was created in 1895 by the local winegrowers. Today there are 40 winegrowers with 260hectares of vineyards providing the seven recognised grapes. 2million bottles p.a are produced. 8 of the 51 grand crus are made here. The sylvaner grapes were harvested first in September. We were lucky enough to be there on the day of a gewürztraminer picking. The tractors and trailers were lining up in the yard to tip the grapes into the crushing machine. 200tonnes of grapes a day were being brought in. One of the farmers even allowed us to have a bunch of his gewürztraminer grapes to taste. They were small but lovely and sweet.

The Tasting

1. Cremant Giersberger brut. 12.5% Made from Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois grapes.

2. Riesling Terroirs 2007 Reserve 13% Drink in next 3-5 yrs for its floral freshness.

3. Pinot Gris Reserve 2007 13.5% Medium dry. Fruity, peachy. From a Bio vineyard which can be recognised by the ladybird symbol on the bottle.

4. Gewurztraminer Haguenau 2010 13.5% Very sweet, lychee and roses.

5. Pinot Noir Grand Cuvee 2009 13% Very light and thin. Our first red wine taste!

We boarded the coach to continue our journey to the pretty medieval town of Bergheim. We walked into the town through an arch in the clock tower on the old wall. The half timbered houses were still bedecked with lovely window boxes of geraniums. At noon our lunch was provided at the restaurant of La Cave du Bailli, a very old cellar like room which had once been the tax office for the winegrowers .We had a three course lunch with wine to accompany each course.

Aperitif: Kir (cassis and white wine)
Gerwurztraminer 2011 was served with our Fois Gras and chutney.
Pinot Gris 2011 served with guinea fowl and veg.
Cremant D’Alsace served with chocolate torte.

By now it was 2.15pm and we were running late for our next tasting so the vineyard came to us! Luckily the restaurant was owned by the vineyard, a family run business called Domaine Halbeisen. The generations have been growing vines since 1737 and the present lady owner talked us through the tasting in the restaurant. The grapes are still cut by hand (59% of grapes are still picked by hand in Alsace. )

The Tasting

Riesling St Georges 2011
Pinot Gris Terra Aurea 2011
Gewurztraminer 2009

A very pleasant experience although a little rushed as we had to move on for our third tasting of the day at Beblenheim. We arrived 4pm at the Cave de Beblenheim, another co-operative. Our guide was the expert on the marketing side of the business rather than a winegrower. Because the harvesting was in full swing we were not able to see the cellars but we were shown round the bottling, labelling and storage facilities. This was on a massive scale. 120 growers contributed their wine which produces 5million bottles p.a. (1 million is cremant) 60% wine is sold in France but they export all over the world. Screw caps are used for exports but French still have corks.

The growers meet to decide which variety of grape is to be picked on certain days. For example this week the gerwurztraminer was collected on Monday, today the riesling was being brought in. It appears to be a good harvest this year.

8000bottles per hour were being filled in the bottling room, and there were 600,000 in the storage room. The wines were allowed 2-3 weeks rest before being sent out.

The Tasting

Cremant D’Alsace Brut Baron de Hoen Blanc de Blancs
Pinot Blanc 2011 Medal d’or Paris 12%
Riesling 2010 Medal d’or Paris 12%
Pinot Gris 2011 Medal d’or Paris 12%
Gewurztraminer 2011 Medal d’or Paris 13%

We were treated to Koukelhopf again although we were not very hungry after our huge lunch in Bergheim.

We made the short journey back to Colmar arriving about 6.30pm. Despite some drizzle we braved it for a walk into the old quarter of the town and found a pleasant restaurant, Remis, where we tried out some regional dishes. The Tarte Flambe was delicious!

Tuesday, 9th October

Today we travelled south of Colmar into the area known as the Haut- Rhin and stopped at Eguisheim, the cradle of Alsace viticulture. Our visit was to Domaine Charles Baur, a family run estate. We were greeted by Arnaud who is the son of the present winegrower. At 26years old he had a passion and pride in the business that shone through and made this particular visit one of the best we have ever had.

The Vineyard began in 1778 and there are approx. 17hectares of organic grapes. All 7 varieties are grown. They produce 70% white wine, 25% cremant and 5% red. They also make fruit liqueurs using pears, mirabelles (yellow plums) etc. As harvesting was still in progress we were not able to see around the cellars, but he made up for it by a huge tasting.

They specialised in cremant which is made from the lighter grapes, pressed for only 3hours so as to extract juice only from the centre of the grapes. However, when they make riesling and gewürztraminer the grapes are pressed for 6-7hours to extract as much flavour from skins and juice as possible.

The Tasting

1.Cremant Brut Medal d’or Paris 40% Pinot blanc 40% Auxerrois, 20% Chardonnay. Aged for 2years.30,000bottles produced p.a. pleasant, not bone dry. Regular bubbles. Made in 2008. Alsace style of cremant, second only to Champagne.

2. Cremant Brut collection 100% chardonnay Medal d’or Paris Aged for 2 years from 2008. similar to Champagne in style, drier than previous cremant. 6000bottles p.a. Waiting for James Bond to come along!

3.Pinot blanc 2010. 13% A light wine good for food or summer drinking.

4.Riesling 2011Cuvee Charles Vieilles Vignes 13% Very good year with good concentration of grapes 45year old vines planted by grandfather. Dry mineral finish.

5.Riesling 2009 Grand Cru Brand Medal d’or Paris . Not as acidic as previous wine. Different soil and vintage shows how different the wines can be. 13.5% The name Brand represents fire. The legend is that a local dragon was killed by the soil which was too hot for it! Big full ripe wine.

6. Pinot Gris 2011 13’5% Neither dry nor sweet. Favoured by women drinkers in restaurants!

7. Gewurztraminer2010 13.5% Beautiful rich and full small grapes mean big contact between juice and skin

8. Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Eichberg . 2011 13.5%Yellow: exotic fruit taste .Good with spicy food.

9. Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Pfersigberg Vendanges Tardives 2008 13.5% Grown on clay and limestone. Foggy mornings contribute to noble rot on berries. Complex flavour and intense. Dessert wine .

No wonder Arnaud’s father was awarded Grand Master 2012 at the Conference of Producers of Alsace wines. I am sure the ambitions of Arnaud will equally be rewarded in future years.

We then wandered around the pretty town which was shaped like a wheel with spokes. The church in the centre had the remains of a stork’s nest on the rooftop. We had a Plat de jour at the Caveau Heuhaus, a traditional restaurant. Started with quiche lorraine, pork meatballs, and a custard tart! There were all sorts of delicacies for sale around the town to tempt us:cheeses, bretzels, macaroons etc.

We left at 2.30pm and headed for La Cave des Vignerons de Pfaffenheim. This was in complete contrast to our previous experience. It was a large co-operative show- piecing wine to the general public. 215growers had 235hectares of land for their vines. They produce 2million bottles a year.

The Tasting

1.Cremant Brut blanc de blancs 12% Neither sweet nor dry

2. Sylvaner 2009 12%

3. Pinot Gris 2011 13’5% Medium sweet.

4. Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Steinhert 2008 14.5% Full but not cloying. Dried fruit taste.

5. Pinot Noir rose 2011 12%

Lack of attention from the sommelier meant we were left a little disappointed in this tasting. Pity!We were back in Colmar for 4pm. so decided to use the remaining daylight to look round the city. We managed to find the area known as Little Venice and Fisherman’s Wharf. Unfortunately the rain spoilt the rest of the day. We did find a good Winstub for our evening meal: Brasserie Schwendi. Roestis were the speciality here and their apple and calvados tarte flambé set alight at the table was a good end to the evening.

Wednesday, 10th October

Today was the start of our journey home but we had the pleasure of one final tasting. The vineyard was on our way northwards at Mittelheimberg. The Boeckel family has been established here for 400years and started their vine growing in 1853.There are 22hectares and 400,000-500,000 bottles p.a. are produced. Harvesting was still in progress with just two more days to go, and then the late harvesting will follow. Riesling grapes were being brought in as we toured past the press. Because they were so busy we were not able to see all the property but we were guided by the owner through the oldest part of the cellars. These had been excavated in the chalk ground and contained some of the oldest bottles. The oldest was dated 1911!

The Tasting

Cremant Blanc de Blancs made from pinot blanc and auxerrois 2010
Sylvaner vieilles vignes 2011 12.5%
Grand Cru Zotzenberg Riesling 2010 13% Grown on clay soil
Grand Cru Zotzenberg Pinot Gris 2010 13% Grown on very heavy clay and gravel soil. Beautiful!
Grand Cru Zotzenberg Gewurztraminer 2010 13%. Another great flavour.
Gewurztraminer Vendages Tardives 2007 13%. Great!

We were well looked after by the owner and his wife, being treated to this tasting along with fresh French bread and pretzels. Once the purchases had been made we lost no time in hitting the road for our very long journey back to Zeebrugge. However, fate was against us this time as we lost valuable time stuck in traffic on the Brussels ringroad. With only a few kms to go we were informed by P & O that we could not board the ferry and we were diverted to The Hook of Holland. Poor Michael had to drive for an extra 3hours and we just made it to the Stena Line dock The ferry sailed at 10.30pm. To our delight, this ferry was immaculate, having just recently been refurbished. The crossing was just seven hours long over to Harwich and then we faced the long drive back home, arriving early afternoon travel weary but elated by the high standard of the tour. Well done to all the organisers!