Wed 22 Apr 2015

Blended Learning: A Workshop at Three Choirs Vineyard

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‘I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.’ (Confucious)

Katherine Douglas

Katherine Douglas

Over the years I have attended many Wine Society tastings and events, but a recent visit to the Three Choirs Vineyards in Newent this weekend stands out as one of my more memorable experiences.

I enjoy these events for the wines we taste, for the opportunity to meet other members and share enthusiasms, and for meeting the producers themselves who speak with such an infectious passion about what they do and why, that it is impossible not to be inspired. I also enjoy these events because, like many members, I am curious about the people, the process, and the product; learning about them enhances my enjoyment.

This, however, was a tasting with a difference. As is usual at these events, we were given a fascinating introduction to the vineyard and its wines from Martin Fowke, award-winning winemaker and head of Three Choirs Vineyards (and I am resisting the temptation to tell you what I learned from him about the Geneva Double Curtain, among many other intriguing details of wine production); we also enjoyed a delicious lunch in the Three Choirs restaurant with wines selected from Three Choirs and The Wine Society List. But the highlight for me, and I think a first for a Wine Society event, was the blending workshop that took place among the vats, tanks and barrels of the Three Choirs winery.

Martin Fowke showing Society members the vineyards

Martin Fowke showing Society members the vineyards

Members were organised into teams and challenged to produce a wine blended from three grape varieties produced in the Three Choirs vineyard (madeleine angevine, reichensteiner and phoenix); we were also given a small amount of suss reserve (concentrated grape juice) which is added to adjust the level of sweetness.

In effect we were being given the opportunity to gain a practical insight into the task that Martin Fowke and Mark Buckenham, Wine Society buyer, had recently carried out in blending the next vintage of Midsummer Hill, a wine produced by Three Choirs exclusively for The Wine Society.

The blending workshop in  in the Three Choirs winery

The blending workshop in in the Three Choirs winery

To reflect the realities of wine production we were given very specific parameters within which to work: restrictions were place on the relative quantities we were permitted to use of each variety, just as yields and individual characteristics of each single variety affect the choices available to a winemaker in any one vintage. This ‘learning by doing’, with the additional pressures of limited time and collective inexperience, was really hard work! It was a unanimous view of the members present that this was also a great deal of fun.

As our team blends were reproduced in bottle (we were to have the opportunity to try out our wines at lunch) and we made our way to the restaurant, I reflected on something Martin had said at the beginning of the day as he described the development of vine growing and winemaking over his thirty years at the Three Choirs Vineyards: in the process of winemaking we are ‘learning all the time’. Cheers!

Katherine Douglas
Committee Member

Categories : England, Wine Tastings

Comments

  1. Nick Rodgers says:

    It’s great to see more focus on English wines by the Society but disappointingly the selection is a fraction of that offered by Waitrose. I would encourage the Society to do more to promote the excellent English wines. I have recently bought bottles of sparkling wine from a grower in Leicestershire (name available if you email me) which at £18.50 a bottle was better than champagnes at twice the price.

  2. Ewan Murray says:

    Thank you for your feedback, Nick.

    While we have worked closely with Three Choirs Vineyard for many years, we are slowly expanding the wineries we work with (currrently seven – Three Choirs, Nyetimber, Ridgeview, Camel Valley, Chapel Down, Albury, Bolney), weighing up supply, demand, quality and viability within our range.

    I shall pass your comments on to our buyer of English wine.

    Ewan Murray
    The Society’s PR Manager

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