They’ve had a corking time for 50 years

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NAME the odd one out: Chablis, Champagne, Corbieres, Collioure, Copley.

Actually there isn’t an odd one out - they’re all wine-producing regions.

Committed member: Halifax Wine Circle member Terry Hanson in his wine cellar.

Committed member: Halifax Wine Circle member Terry Hanson in his wine cellar.

Okay, so the first four in the list are all regions of France whereas Copley, of course, is situated in Calderdale.

But nevertheless, it is a wine-producing region because it is here, on a sheltered patch of Terry Hanson’s tiered garden that an established collection of vines grow. And what’s more the juicy grapes they produce make some delicious vintages.

It just goes to show that you don’t need the sun-kissed terroir of Bordeaux, the Loire or Burgundy to produce a fine tipple - all you need is a good bit of Calderdale soil and a fair bit of know-how.

And knowledge is something Terry and his fellow members of Halifax and District Amateur Wine Circle have by the demijohn.

The group is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and is now hoping new members will go along to help them raise a glass or two and celebrate.

“Some of us aren’t getting any younger, so it would be nice to have some new blood,” laughs 77-year-old Terry, as he uncorks a cheeky little rose.

He reveals that he first started “dabbling” in the art of wine-making when he was 16. “My grandma set me off really,” he says.

“She used to make orange peel wine which was like a strong sherry. I picked it up from her. I still make the orange peel wine occasionally.”

He adds that he went along to the Wine Circle, at only its second meeting and has been a committed member ever since, holding a variety of positions of office. Currently he is president (a post he’s held for 30 years), chairman and treasurer.

He shows me the receipt for his vines - purchased in October 1976. Originally there were a dozen and even though they have dwindled today to just four, the varieties, including seibel (red), madeleine (white) and siegerrebe (white), they are still productive and keep Terry’s cellar well stocked.

“Some of the vines came to grief when a wall collapsed but the remaining ones are still good. From the red, I’ll probably get a gallon and a half,” he says.

“I don’t restrict the wine-making to my own grapes though, I’m always on the look out for good grapes at a good price. I bought some recently from the market and they’re on the go now. I reckon I’ll get 30 to 40 gallons from them.”

As for his own vines, the buds have just begun to show, he reveals. This means they’ll be perfect for picking in September.

“I always keep wine for at least two years though so it won’t taste the results for a while but I always have plenty on the go. There’s no chance of running dry”

Rob Bairstow is the Circle’s vice-chairman and is a relatively new member, along with Margaret Blayney-Simpson, the Circle’s secretary.

“I’ve always dabbled with wine-making,” says Rob who, togue-in-cheek, describes himself as “drinker of wine.”

“Margaret and I joined the Wine Circle a couple of years ago and we’ve made great friends. If people think there’s snobbery attached to wine, then that’s absolutely not the case in the Wine Circle.

“Instead there’s a good, supportive bunch of people who share ideas. It’s a great social venue,” says Rob who admits he is still “cutting his teeth” but enjoys making whites and roses.

“I don’t have vines like Terry so I beg, steal and borrow but there’s always someone willing to help out.”

Rod admits that he’s had a few disasters in the past but it has just added to the fun of it.

“I tried to make some marrow rum which involves using a pair of old tights. You use lots of sugar, pierce a hole in one end and then the rum will eventually drip out. Well the process nearly blinded me and I managed to kill a goldfish in the process,” he says.

His confession prompts Terry to share an anecdote about his attempt at elderflower champagne.

“It was pretty lively stuff. We could hear the corks popping out of the bottles so for weeks we daren’t go down the cellar.”

Margaret reveals that she has a limited knowledge of wine but says belonging to the Wine Circle has helped kindle her interest.

“I thought I might feel intimidated because I can’t tell one variety of grape from another but it isn’t like that at all. They’re a great group of people.” To mark the special 50th anniversary, the Wine Circle, which meets at the Maurice Jagger Centre, has a full programme, including tastings, quizzes and even a visit to another local vineyard, in Holmfirth.

And as in past years, a competitive spirit will be encouraged with a number of trophies up for grabs for those who can produce (among others) the best full-bodied red, the tastiest white dry, a top medium sweet flower wine and even the best port type.

One fiercely contended competition will be the quest between Yorkshire and Lancashire wine circles to find the best rose. The War of the Roses winner will then take home the Taylor Cup, which was established by the Halifax Wine Circle in 2008. The present holders are Halifax and once again Terry will be putting his skills to the test.

“Competition is good because everyone likes to try and come up with a winner. It’s all good fun though even though deep down it’s quite serious,” he says.

“We’re lucky in that we have some good members in the Halifax Wine Circle and we want that to continue.”

And since he has placed a glass of his trophy-winning rose in my hand, I’ll drink to that.

l Halifax Wine Circle meets on the first Tuesday of each month at the Maurice Jagger Centre, Winding Road, Halifax, from 8pm to 10pm. Anyone interested should go along to a meeting or contact secretary, Margaret Blayney-Simpson on 01422 357309 or mblayneysimpson@yahoo.co.uk