RICHARD ESLING: Arundel Wine Society celebrates fifth birthday

Andy Heggadon (left) and a wine waiter preparing the wines
Andy Heggadon (left) and a wine waiter preparing the wines

As the world of wine seemingly gets more complex and confusing day by day, particularly in this country which imports wine from every conceivable wine producing region of the planet, wine education of one sort or another is becoming ever more popular.

Whether it be formal learning, such as the global wine qualification courses of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, or learning in the more social context of a wine club or society, more and more consumers want to know how wines are made, where they come from and what they taste like.

What’s the difference between Pouilly Fumé and Pouilly Fuissé? Does Tempranillo from Australia taste like the Spanish wines so often made from this variety? And what about Albariño from New Zealand or even Uruguay? Uruguay? Yes, Uruguay!

A few years ago, some friends in Arundel asked me how they can tap into the knowledge I have acquired from more than 30 years in the wine trade, including studying up to Master of Wine Level.

“I’ll start a wine club”, was my response and so The Arundel Wine Society was born.

Two weeks ago, the Society celebrated its fifth anniversary at the Annual Wine Dinner, held this year at The Loft, Sparks Yard in Tarrant Street, Arundel. A sell-out event, the four course (five if you count the canapés) was designed around the wines by Holly Heggadon, who with her partner Andy, run a new top-quality catering and party event business called Toucan Party, from their base in Tarrant Street.

The Arundel Wine Society started with just ten founder members and has grown over the years to now nearly 60 active members, with more joining nearly every month. Members come not only from Arundel, but also from the surrounding towns and villages. We are lucky to have one of the most highly regarded persons in the wine trade internationally – Gerard Basset OBE MW MS – as our illustrious president and now also enjoy the patronage of Her Grace the Duchess of Norfolk. The monthly meetings are well attended and fulfill both aims of education and an enjoyable social event.

For such an auspicious occasion as a Fifth Anniversary, the five wines which were matched one to each dish, naturally had to be of appropriately high quality. The aperitif served with Holly’s delicious canapés was thus no less than Champagne Taittinger Brut Reserve, which met with universal acclaim by the diners. Taittinger is one of the last great champagne houses to still be family owned and their champagnes have subtlety, great balance and considerable depth of flavour. Pure elegance in a glass. The next wine, served with the hot smoked salmon and dill paté, was a deliciously fresh and vibrant Sauvignon Blanc from Bordeaux, made by the outstanding Bordeaux company – Dourthe. This company currently sets the standards for quality wine production in the region and has revolutionized the brand landscape in Bordeaux. Dourthe No.1 Suavignon Blanc is a prime example. Available from Waitrose,its reasonable price belies the great quality.

Next came two red wines with the Coq au Vin and the cheese courses. Chosen from the two regions which produce some of the best wines in the world, the first was Chateau Desmirail 2008, a Grand Cru Classé from Margaux. A wonderfully supple and full flavoured, mature claret from an underrated 3rd growth chateau. Perfectly matched to the Coq au Vin, itself cooked in red Bordeaux.

Moving to the rival Burgundy region on the opposite side of France, a classic red Burgundy in the form of Cotes de Beaune Villages 2014 from the highly reputed cellars of Louis Jadot, complemented the range of creamy French cheeses. Around £20 a bottle from Majestic.

The crowning glory to the celebratory dinner was Chateau Lafaurie Peyraguey 2003 Sauternes Premier Grand Cru Classé, unquestionably one of the top estates in Sauternes and one of the top dessert wines of the world. A deep amber colour, full bodied and luscious, with amazing depth of flavours including honey, apple, dried pineapple and apricot. £50 a bottle if you’re lucky enough to still find any. To top it all, a drop of 10-year-old Armagnac from a small producer called Domaine d’Esperance was served as a digestif. All the wines served were described and commented.

Further details of how to join the Arundel Wine Society from www.arundelwinesociety.co.uk.

Richard Esling BSc DipWSET is an experienced wine consultant, agent, writer and educator. An erstwhile wine importer, he runs a wine agency and consultancy company called WineWyse, is founder and principal of the Sussex Wine Academy, chairman of Arundel Wine Society and is an International Wine Judge. Twitter @richardwje. Visit www.winewyse.com.

Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.

Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be among the first to know what’s going on.

1 Make our website your homepage

2 Like our Facebook page

3 Follow us on Twitter

4 Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.

And do share with your family and friends – so they don’t miss out!

Be part of it.