With Christmas around the corner, we attracted a sellout crowd at the Eastcott Community Centre for the Festive wine tasting. It was finally time for everyone to be "out-out" and there was a heady excitement to proceedings.
1) Prosecco Treviso Frizzante, £6.45, Lidl
Our welcome drink was a glass of prosecco. With the current cost of living crisis, entertaining the masses over the festive period may be daunting, but prosecco costing less than £7 a bottle is a great choice.
Prosecco is cheaper than champagne due to the less intensive production method. Fermented in a large tank, prosecco has larger, brash bubbles (than champagne) and this example has a touch of sweetness on the palate.
Add orange juice for a bucks fizz to make the wine stretch further. You can make the drink a touch classier by adding a drop of cherry or raspberry liquor. Alternatively, make a bellini with peach puree. The BBC Goodfood website has other prosecco cocktail ideas.
2) Morrisons "The Best" Alvarinho, £7.50
Our first white wine of the evening was a Portuguese Alvarinho. The grapes are grown in the vino verde region where it's cooler, rainy and close to the coast, making the wines fresh and zingy.
It's the same grape as albariño from Galicia in neighbouring Spain, but is often better value. Great with seafood and white meats over Christmas.
3) Vasse Felix chardonnay, Majestic Wine, £12.99 (mix 6)
Our next wine takes us to Western Australia, where the area of Margaret River boasts a town known for boutique wine producers. Whilst the area is responsible for 3% of Australian wine, it produces 20% of the country's premium wines.
The area is on the coast, south of Perth where it enjoys a humid Mediterranean climate, cooled by fresh sea breezes that produce high-quality fruit flavours in the grapes.
The Vasse Felix winery is Margaret River’s founding wine estate and was established in 1967. It acquired its name from a seaman called Thomas Vasse, who was believed to have drowned when swept overboard from his vessel in 1801. To bring luck to the winery, the word "Felix" was added, meaning "lucky". However, the grapes on the first vines planted were destroyed either by rot or got eaten by native birds, so a peregrine falcon was brought in to scare off the birds.
This also proved disastrous, as the peregrine flew off into the woods on its first release, never to return. The peregrine lives on as a depiction on the wine labels, and thankfully the winery is thriving in 2018.
4) Incanta Pinot Noir, Majestic Wine, £5.99 (mix 6)
This wine is from the winery Cramele Recas, which was founded by Bristol-born Philip Cox. He moved to Romania 30 years ago with his Romanian wife and started a boutique winery.
This business has now grown into the most successful winery in Romania where he churns out 65 different wines including Incanta Pinot Noir. Romania is off the beaten track in terms of wine production and this example would cost at least twice the price if Romania wasn’t still under the wine radar. Enjoy it before others discover it!!
I have had this wine blind-tasted at previous events. I was keen to get verdicts on whether people enjoyed it before they knew about the price tag. This wine was a real hit with the tasters, bursting with flavours of redcurrants, raspberry and jam. They raved about the wine even before the price tag was revealed.
5) Les Oliviers Merlot, Magnum wine shop, £7.99
We asked Brian from Magnum wine shop (Wood Street, SN1 4AB) for a recommendation of a good value full-bodied red wine that he sells.
His suggestion was from Boutinot wines - a small producer based in the south of France with 20 employees. The grapes are sourced from sun-drenched vineyards, giving ripe berry fruit in this versatile merlot.
There is 20% Mourvèdre added to the blend, giving a kick of warm spice. It's also vegan.
The tasters were impressed with the wine. It matched perfectly with the cheese board and they agreed that this would be a great wine to have on hand over the festive period.
6) Fletcher's Fine Ruby port, Aldi, £6.69
We finished the evening off with the most Christmassy of drinks, port. Fletcher's fine ruby port is an entry-level port, full of soft and velvety mouthfeel with a rich and intensely fruity style.
The tasters really loved this port and were amazed at the low price. "I feel cheated," complained one of the drinkers. "I've been paying a fortune for port over the years when I could have been buying this."
The evening was rounded off with the answers to the quiz, and drawing the raffle.
Look out for our next tasting events in 2023!