Wine Appreciation One

Wine Appreciation Group One

About the Group:
The clue is in the title. The aim is to get together and to appreciate wine by learning more about it by tasting, discussing and generally enjoying wine, its history, its origins, its quirkiness, its myths and its joys. And perhaps its stuffiness as well.   We meet to taste wine, discuss it and exchange interesting facts. Each month a different member hosts a meeting who will decide which wines to taste (for example wines from New Zealand, wines of different grapes, cheap wines versus expensive wines, sparkling wines etc - the choice of subject matter will be yours! 
We might occasionally even have cider or beer instead), give a short lecture on the choice and have tastings, questions and perhaps even quizzes about that month's choice. The host will provide the wines (usually 6 bottles of his or her choice) The accent will be on fun, exchanging facts and information about wine, meeting other wine lovers and learning from each other.
When and where do we meet?
We meet in each others' homes. We have a maximum of 14 in this group who meet monthly. We share cars whenever possible.
How much does it cost?
Everyone contributes towards the cost of that month's wine and food / snacks which go with the wine. Currently £5 per person.
Group Contact:
Peter Egan
Contact Details:
We have started a second and a third Wine Appreciation Group. For further information, contact

We do our best to try to keep this information up to date. However, to find the latest contact details, look on the HOME PAGE and go to the STUDY GROUP CONTACT LIST and you will find more information about the groups there.

Wine Group Travels the World

Well, it's not quite as the title suggests but that was the theme for the evening. Hosted by Stephen and Mary, members of Wine Group One had the opportunity to taste seven excellent wines from all over the world. It was organised in the form of a fun quiz with participants pairing up, tasting the wines and guessing where they came from. Sounds simple but who can be knowledgeable about the whole world's wines?

Argentinian Clues
So we had to be helped along the way in the form of a musical clue followed by a choice of up to three other clues. A correct answer gave each pair fifty points but each clue reduced that total by ten points. If all three clues were used, the maximum points would be twenty. A simple concept  but challenging for some in the group despite audio visual prompts. Well, it wasn't an intellectual challenge or even a wine knowledge challenge but simply that we know each other so well after twenty five or so monthly meetings that the laughter and the hilarity got in the way. And that is even before we had tasted a drop of wine!

Keeping the score
Eventually, the group got the hang of it with some recognising some of the musical clues or at least with it being "on the tip of their tongue" and others getting a little frustrated by the clues. All neatly folded by Mary, the clues were all true but some would not be helpful at all, others would point the pair in the right direction and a few would be so obvious that a decision could be made easily. One pair seemed to get only useless clues and another failed to recognise Big Ben as an obvious clue for English wines. All of this caused even greater merriment. I need to say at this point that it wasn't the wine causing the fun, (but maybe it helped) but the randomness of the luck of the draw with the three optional clues. The answers were given in the form of another more obvious musical piece.

Musical Clues
The food was also loosely linked to the country with Gougeres for France and Croquetas de Jamon for Argentina and Felafel and Houmous for Lebanon. The musical clues stretched the imagination in some cases with one example being The Wombles of Wimbledon Common being the clue for Bulgaria. I'll leave you to work that one out. The winning pair, Paddy and Peter E, were well deserved victors, having listened more carefully to the music and perhaps also having a few more useful clues than others. However, their skill in recognising a Lebanese Red (the most expensive wine of the evening) made them worthy champions.

And now for the wines.........


Our first meeting of the year for winos group one featured wines from Australia.
To start the evening members were offered a champagne glass of Fosters which definitely confused a few tasters! This was followed by Chardonnay, Riesling, Shiraz, Merlot and ending with a sparkling rosé.

The Australian theme prevailed with the hosts ‘Sheila & Shane’ dressed in shorts and bush hats serving BBQ food- bangers, burgers, chicken legs and pavlova. It proved to be another good evening that kept the winter blues away.


Our nostalgic theme was set by a darkened room, playing 60's music with lava lamps and a glitter ball throwing out beams and spots of colour. The wine choice was “of its time” (to quote Stephen Harding). The night began with a glass of Asti Spumante followed by Snowball cocktails, Babycham, Blue Nun, Lambrusco, Mateus Rosé and finally a decent Chianti. The wines left a lot to be desired (however did we drink that plonk back then?).

The drinking was interspersed by the Humbug game, where each person had to hum to a 60's tune for the others to guess, it was hilarious! The food choice was again “of its time” with cheese & pineapple sticks, pork pies, sausage & gherkin sticks, prawn vol au vents, scotch eggs and bags of crisps, followed by Black Forest gateaux. 

Our palates were severely tested by the quality of the wines and had to be supplemented by opening some decent bottles at the end! The nostalgia was further enhanced by the 60’s music bringing back memories of lost times, with consequential stories and laughter.

à votre santé 

Wine Appreciation on a Grand Scale

Last Tuesday, Rickards Hall, in Edenbridge, was buzzing with the sound of popping corks, music and laughter as the 3 wine appreciation groups gathered for a Christmas celebration. The hall had been transformed into a colourful European meeting place bedecked with national flags and artefacts making the room a riot of colour, a fitting backdrop for the bright, imaginative, if somewhat crazy costumes that were worn by the group members. We were treated to an array of red and white wines from Spain, France and Italy accompanied by regional food and music.

Señor Faulty, ably assisted by Manuel, introduced the Spanish wines on behalf of group 1. Group 2s Sommelier, 'Jean', represented the French, wearing the traditional beret and striped top. However, it was noticed that a few ‘Yellow Vests’ had managed to sneak in. Fortunately, they proved to be both well behaved and well informed.

The same cannot be said for the Italian Gondoliers, led by Signor Cornetto, who serenaded us with some dubious but hilarious ditties which were enjoyed by all. 

There followed a surprise visit from Santa who pulled his sleigh around the gathered company, giving out presents. What delights did he bring? Yes, you’ve guessed it…....more wine! The evening ended with music and dancing.

We all agreed it had been a fantastic night and a testament to what can be achieved when everyone gets involved. 

Here’s to the next one!


Click HERE for full report


That was the title of the November meeting of Wine Appreciation Group 1, held at Peter and Helena’s home. Following a memorable trip to Devon Vineyards in September it was decided to put the group’s experience to the test. Whilst in Devon we witnessed the harvest in progress, even picking grapes ourselves, and learned that 2018 was proving to be their best year ever.

At this month’s tasting, members were asked to sample similar wines from Devon and Spain, with accompanying food from both regions. The group found it quite difficult to decide on the country of origin which must be a testament to the increasing quality of home grown wines. We all agreed however, that the English still have some way to go 
to develop the heavier red vintages.

The winner of the exercise was Brian Swift, who left clutching a bag of gold, albeit chocolate, which just goes to show that it is a wise man who knows his wine! Meanwhile the rest of us need to keep practising.

The evening closed with heartfelt thanks to our retiring leader, Peter Egan. We are now looking forward to the joint Christmas meeting of Wine Groups 1, 2 and 3 on the 11th December.

Wine Group One Goes Japanese

Our latest wine appreciation meeting had an Oriental flavour. Hosted by Gloria Keens and Peter Egan, our members were introduced to the pleasures (or not, depending on their tastes!) of Japanese sake. Many had not tasted Sake before and this proved to be quite a learning experience. To be fair, some liked it, some were ambivalent and some were none too keen. However, the purpose of our wine group is "to learn and to experience" which doesn't always equate with "to like".

The Sake was accompanied with, predictably, sushi and other Japanese delights. All went down a treat.

There was however some consolation in the form of a delicious Japanese plum wine, served after the Sake. Served with chocolate mousse, this delicious dessert wine was a dramatic change from the dry, almost bitter, flavour of the sake.

We were lucky with the weather as the meeting was held outdoors under a gazebo, 
decorated by Gloria with Japanese lanterns. And it was soon back to normal with much laughter and jollity helped, it must be said, by a few bottles of a perfectly drinkable Bordeaux.

For the purists, the Sake selected was as follows:
Sawanotsuru Sake
Kubota Senju Sake
And the plum wine was Tamara plum wine.

As usual, we of Wine Group One threw ourselves into the spirit of the occasion and our hostess, Gloria, left us in no doubt of the origin of the wines. As you will see from the photo!

Wine Appreciation Group Finds 
Itself on a Desert Island

The Wine Appreciation Group One had a meeting with a twist. Heralded as the first meeting we have had when we didn't just taste the wine but enjoyed it too (not that we don't always enjoy it), the meeting, hosted by Jan and Bob, transported members to a desert Island in deepest Edenbridge where each person or couple chose a memorable song along with a memorable wine with a nostalgic story attached. The Desert Island Discs theme tune played softly in the background.

We were all sitting sedately sipping our first glass when the fun started and distant memories were recalled and the tune Zorba the Greek by Bouzouki Kings started and we just couldn't resist the dance. We didn't look back from then on. It was a fun evening and the wine tasted even better when each person recollected why they had chosen it. Unusually, mainly whites, we concluded that our tastes for less dry wines had changed considerably from those distant years gone by.

For anyone who is interested in the song play list you'll find it below.....

Desert Islands Disc theme tune
I want to be Bobby’s girl – Susan Maughan
Zorba the Greek – Bouzouki Kings
I can’t stop loving you – Ray Charles
Passenger – Scare Away the Dark
Them – Here comes the Night
Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin
You’re the one that I want – John Travolta / Olivia Newton John
Je t’aime  - Serge Gainsbourg / Jane Birkin
Red Red Wine – UB40
Layla – Eric Clapton
Dancing on the Ceiling – Lionel Richie
Bat out of Hell – Meatloaf
Everybody wants to rule the world – Tears for Fears
All Along the watchtower – Jimi Hendrix

Plus some others in between
Israelites “baked beans for breakfast” – Desmond Decker [for Helena]
You Say that you love me “Crystal Palace supporters tune” – Dave Clark Five [for Mary]
Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis - Vaughn Williams [for Bob]
Moondance – Van Morrison [for all]

Thanks again Jan and Bob for an excellent evening complete with a palm tree, garlands and special desert island glasses.

 Love is in the Air for Wine 
Appreciation Group One

Love is in the Air
The entire contingent of Wine Appreciation Group One used their February gathering to celebrate Valentine’s Day, by sampling bottles displaying romantic titles. The meeting was hosted by Peter and Helena Welch, who had scoured the shelves (with some help from an obliging wine salesman) for such themed vintages. Some of these titles included ‘Sexy Beast’, ‘Romeo and Juliet’, ‘One to One’ and ‘Carnival of Love.’ It was generally agreed that a few of the labels were rather tacky and would not encourage consumers to buy, what proved to be, some excellent wines.

To encourage the spirit of learning and friendly rivalry, group members were divided into pairs to take part in a competition of ‘Wine and Romance.’ Along with guessing the type of wine, country of origin and approximate price, the couples had to identify the label name by choosing from an array of real and imaginary titles. Obscurely, James Bond girls also featured in the fun and games as the love interest in the competition.

Although much was learned about wine and its appreciation at this convivial evening, we all agreed that we need to keep practising. So here’s to next month!

Match the Wine Name to the Wines

Match the Bond Girl to the Film
The "Grand Crew"
Joint Wine Appreciation Groups Meeting January 2018
Around 50 of our members from the three Wine Appreciation Groups met in Chiddingstone Hall for a Joint Meeting, Presentation and Wine Tasting. 

Three into one will go, as we proved when the three popular U3A Wine Appreciation Groups got together on a cold January evening for a mouthwatering wine tasting. A glass of cool Champagne, provided by one of our members got everyone in the mood first of all.

Our tutor was Phil from the Sevenoaks branch of Majestic Wines. He brought ten wines with a glass for everyone for each wine. Phil gave us a Masterclass for us to learn about wine. How to taste, assess wines and which foods to match with wines.

Our white wine tasting (a small amount of each of the five wines) started with a delicious white crisp and fruity Riesling then onto a full bodied Chardonnay suitable for serving with chicken or light fish dishes.

After a break and a welcome snack of cheese, biscuits and pate, we settled down to assess and enjoy small tastes of four red wines and a dessert wine.

Our venue for this exciting evening was the fabulous, newly built Chiddingstone Causeway Hall. And no! -  no-one showed signs of over-indulging.  Our tastings were just small amounts and there was plenty of water provided so none of us suffered any ill effects.

Thanks must go to the three group leaders, Peter, Tim and Pam for organising it. Special mention needs to go to Pam who was the brains behind the evening, booking the hall, arranging the tastings and providing food.

Just to warn you, there are no vacancies in any of our three groups but you could always start a new group - just contact Brian at

Wine Appreciation Group One
in St Emilion

After more than twenty meetings in the last three years we felt we needed to have a field trip, especially after the successful trip to France last year. Fourteen of us flew to Bordeaux where we were met by a driver with a luxurious minibus who took us to St Emilion.

It was a three night excursion, visiting many chateaux and wine tasting in each one. St Emilion is a beautiful village and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After an open air meal, we spent the rest of the day enjoying the village and exploring. The day finished off with an excellent meal in one of the many "Caves" with a wine list of hundreds of bottles! But Bob insisted that out of all of them it had to be a 2010! He must have done a lot of practice to know that was one of their best years. He had no shame in ordering for us the last three bottles of two different wines from that particular vintage.

Throughout we were chauffeured in a small luxury coach. On the second day, we were taken to the Graves Appellation where we were guests of the Grand Cru Classe Chateau in Cadujac. They explained how the freak frost in April had destroyed their crop for that year. The guide was superb and answered all of our many questions. We were treated to an excellent lunch overlooking the vineyards.

In the afternoon, we visited two more Chateaux in the Medoc Appellation. Both were extremely different. By the end of the day we were becoming experts in the growing of the vine and the processing which takes place to produce the perfect bottle. Not to mention, the honing of our wine tasting skills! And none of us was driving!

The following day was spent in the St Emilion Appellation and after a short walk we visited the Chateau Ambe Tour Pourret with four wine tastings, this time with chocolate and cheese, followed by an amazing picnic lunch with even more wine! This was an estate which was working towards being organic which can take quite a few years with many challenges. We took a short walk through the vineyards to the next chateau where we visited the original caves (where the wine was stored) that had been dug out centuries ago to excavate the stone to build the village.

On the final day, we were taken to the city of Bordeaux to see many beautiful sites, followed by a visit to the wine museum with its extremely hi-tech approach to displaying every aspect of wine production in the region. A short flight home saw us all tired but extremely satisfied after three days of being able to put into practice what we had been learning for the previous three years.

And a final mention to Gloria who organised the whole thing from times of flights, transport, meals and tours. We all think you are amazing! Thanks so much.

If you want to see all of the photographs of this great trip. you will find them HERE

Page 1 of 4
Wine Appreciation Goes French

Twelve of the Wine Appreciation Group One met at Stephen and Mary's on one of the best days of the year weather-wise. We had decided on this occasion to break with tradition and meet on a Sunday lunchtime (but not for Sunday lunch). The weather was good enough to hold the whole meeting in the garden.

We have arranged to go to St Emilion in Bordeaux in June, so it seemed appropriate to have the theme of French wines. Complete with French music, the Marseillaise, French flags galore and a speech in French to get us in the mood, we tasted two Sparking Cremant wines, three whites and three reds - all with accompanying food.

Members grouped in pairs to blind-taste each of the three groups of wines and match them to the labels they had been given after a brief introduction about each of them. Not surprisingly, after more than twenty meetings, every pair managed to identify correctly all of the reds and the whites. An astonishing success which shows how we have developed in three years. It was all down to the Sparking Wines. However, we identified winners in Paddy and Peter who managed to identify correctly all eight wines.

Is it a record? We arrived at 1pm and broke up at 8-20pm which proved what a good time we all had. We have to ask the question, is this a record for the longest meeting any group has held in members' homes? (not counting days out and field trips, of course). Let us know if you disagree!

We'll let the Before and After pictures speak for themselves!

Just an example of the wines we tasted
Wine Appreciation Group One
February 2017 Meeting

Fourteen of us gathered together for an excellent meeting at which we were asked to identify wines from all over the world - eight in all. All were unusual and we had to place our name stickers on the appropriate flag on the table.

Bob reads from the bottle to identify the wine
Bob the Judge
Brian is the winner with runners up Paddy and Gloria

We'd like to thank Jan and Bob for all their hard work in arranging an excellent, interesting and informative evening!

Wine Appreciation Group 
goes to Denbies

Just under a year ago, the subject of the Wine Appreciation was A Taste of English Wines, many of which were from Denbies Wine Estate in Dorking which is the biggest in the UK.

You can read all about that meeting HERE.

Add caption
So, as a follow up Stephen and Mary organised a visit to Denbies right in the middle of Harvest Time. details of the grape varieties that were planted there.yard, how it had started and details of the grape varieties that were planted there. We then met again for lunch followed by an inside tour of the winery after a very informative film. We finished with a wine tasting accompanied by food which complemented the wine. 

The photographs can tell the story..........

Small train ride to the top of Dorking Hill through the vineyard

Extensive Vines of many varieties

Tour of the Winery

Explaining the process of wine making

Wine Tasting in the cellar

Oak barrels made from devastation of The Great Storm
Organic Wines

Ten of us met at Paddy and Victoria's for an unusual evening tasting various organic wines from around the world. They gave an excellent introduction to each including videos and tasting notes.

Our conclusions were very favourable in taste and price. We also found that those amongst us who have reactions to the ingredients of wine (not hangovers I add) the organic wines were much gentler and didn't have any adverse effects.

If you would like to join a Wine Appreciation Group, we are starting a second one as the first is full, please contact Brian at

Italian Wines

We had a full house of 15 members in Debbie and Mike's home. They organised a superb evening on Italian wines, particularly from a region that they had visited on a recent holiday. We tasted Prosecco, Soave, Pinot Grigio and three types of Valpolicella ranging in price from an everyday red to a special vintage. Using an audio visual presentation, we learnt about the classification of wines in Italy. There was excellent accompanying food and the evening finished with coffee and Limoncello.

Wine classification in Italy
(This has never been an easy task! )

There are four classes of wine in Italy:-

1.Vini (VdT - Vini de Tavola) – label for basic wines that end up in Italy from anywhere in the EU but are then bottled in Italy – Rosso or Bianco. (red or white) Can only be labelled by the colour not grape variety. Typical house wines in a restaurant

2. Vini Varietali – international grapes from the EU that can be labelled by recognised grape variety e.g Sauvignon blanc etc. No geographic area is included in the label. Standard EU bound

3. Vini IGP (Indicazione Geographica Tipica) – 118 wines with protected geographical label in Italy. These wines follow broad rules about production and what grape varieties are allowed from the area the wine comes from

4. Vini DOP : 405 wines with protected designation of origin. These wines are the best from Italy and this is reflected in the price! 

a.) DOC ( Denominzione di origine controllata) – wines with the protected designation of origin ( to achieve this status the wine must have achieved IGP status for 15 years ) 332 wines in this category. 

And top of the Italian wine tree:- 

b.) DOCG (Denominzione di origine controllata e Garantita) – wines from carefully designated areas that are guaranteed by the Italian Government to have come from the vineyards of that particular area and cultivated, harvested and turned into wine in a way particular to that area.

Wines are regularly checked by officials to ensure quality is maintained. 

Only 77 wine producers in Italy have been allocated DOCG status. 

e.g. Amarone was only allocated DOCG status in 2009 having been consistent in its grading as DOC wine for ten consecutive years previously.

This Group is currently full as we meet in each others' homes. However, if anyone would like to start a second group, we would be happy to give advice. Please contact the Groups Coordinator

Wine and Cheese

For this meeting the group studied French wines savoured with specific French cheeses to compliment the different selections of wine from across regions of France.  

While enjoying the different taste sensations this also promoted discussion and detailed planning for the groups proposed wine appreciation trip to France in May

A Taste of English Wines

This Meeting of the Wine Appreciation Group was hosted by Stephen and Mary. At first we had to guess from where in the world the first two white wines originated. Generally people liked the wine but were unable to place the origin accurately. It turned out that the wines were from the Denbies' Vineyard in Dorking, Surrey. These were compared with a supposedly dry Riesling from the Mosel Region of Germany.

A blind red wine tasting of two English wines followed from Denbies and Chapel Down from the Wickham Estate in Tenterden (the only Kent wine tasted as few were available).

The evening concluded with another blind tasting and comparison of two sparkling wines - one called Whitedowns from Denbies and a relatively budget Champagne. Generally the English wines were preferred.

The wines we tasted
Number One
Denbies Surrey Gold Non Vintage 11.5%
Number Two
Denbies Ranmore Hill 2013 12%
Number Three
Dr Loosen Graacher Himmelreich Mosel  8% 
Number Four
Denbies Redlands 2014  12% 
Number Five  -  Tenterden Chapel Down Wickham Estate Red 2011 12%
Number Six  -  Antoine Clevecy Champagne  12% 
Number Seven -  Denbies Whitedowns Sparkling Wine  11.5%  

All about UK Wine
Wine from the United Kingdom is generally classified as either 'English wine' or 'Welsh wine', referring to its actual place of origin. The term 'British wine' is used for fermented grape juice or concentrate that can originate from anywhere in the world.

The Romans introduced wine production to England and even attempted to grow grapes as far north as Lincolnshire. You can't fault them for trying.

There are now more than 430 vineyards in England and Wales, with most concentrated in the south east.

The average vineyard size is 3.3 hectares

It takes at least four years before you can harvest the grape when you establish a vineyard. 
There are now 1,500 hectares of vines planted across the land.

Britain produces more than two million bottles of wine a year.

Sparkling wine accounts for 60% of the UK’s wine production.

Millennia ago, when Britain was part of the European landmass, large swaths of south-east England were joined to what is France’s modern day Champagne.

Due to the changing climate, French vineyard owners are buying up land en masse in south-east England as they are worried it’s getting too hot in France, and the soil in the white cliffs of Dover is similar to the chalky soil of Champagne, while costing far less.

The largest vineyard is Denbies in Dorking, Surrey, with around 300 acres and 300,000 vines under cultivation.

Despite international acclaim, English & Welsh wine sales combined account for less than 1% of total wine sales in the UK.

The Wine Appreciation Group is currently full. 
However, many U3As have several groups. If anyone wanted to start another, we would be able to advise from our experience of the last year.