|Springtime in the village|
The members of the wine circle produced some of the best home-made wine I've ever tasted. (They very occasionally produced the worst, but then we've all done that! Or at least anyone who's ever made wine has.) Once a year, in the spring, you paid a very small amount of money, took your own glass, and headed for the village hall. All the members of the club contributed bottles (and occasionally demi-johns) of their home made wine. Nominally a 'wine tasting' it was more accurately a 'wine drinking in vast quantities' evening. Although buckets were provided in which you could spit out the very occasional failure.
The club also provided vast amounts of cheese and biscuits and other nice nibbles, to absorb some of the alcohol. There was a raffle, there were competitions, and there was an awful lot of brilliant booze. I particularly remember a demi-john of the most delicious plum wine whose proud maker poured extra large glasses. Lots of them.
It wasn't a long evening. By 9.30 or 10pm we were all lurching hilariously home, through the May evening, and the scent of bluebells and hawthorn blossom. It was worth the annual hangover.
The club is no more, alas, falling victim mostly to cheap but good supermarket wines. People do still make wine here, when the hedgerows are full of brambles in the autumn: luscious free fruit. I myself make sloe and damson gin at that time of year.
As the founder members grew older, the club itself faded away. I remember it with huge affection, and miss it still, especially at this time of year, miss the bramble and the plum and the rhubarb wines, the elderflower champagnes, even the rather peculiar pea pod wines. I miss the older friends and relatives we socialised with, and those lovely wine makers too, many of whom have gone to the great vineyard in the sky where even now, they're probably busy turning celestial water into the best possible vintage wine.