Here’s a toast to Britain’s best amateur female winemaker - and she's from Huddersfield.
Maureen Heath, who began her hobby 50 years ago by making a “potent” bottle of pea pod wine, won four major classes at the National Association of Amateur Wine & Beer Makers annual show in Manchester.
Out of 1,403 bottles sampled, judges rated Maureen’s wines the best in the classes for Dry Red Fresh Grape, Citrus Based White Sweet, Dry White Fresh Grape and Dry White Fruit. The citrus drink was made using oranges while the white fruit used whitecurrants.
Maureen, 70, and husband Bruce, 73, grow much of the fruit for her prizewinning wines in the garden of their home at Almondbury – including whitecurrants, redcurrants, raspberries and blackcurrants as well as grapes grown in the greenhouse. The couple also forage for sloes and blackberries in the hedgerows and verges around the village.
Maureen, who also enjoys baking, gardening and making jam, explained: “When we got married, we had an allotment and one year we had a lot of peas. I had a book showing how to make pea pod wine, so I had a go. We left it under the floorboards and it became very potent, but it prompted me to try a few others.”
She said: “You couldn’t buy wine like you can today. It was all Liebraumilsch or Blue Nun! When we started, it was trial and error. We joined a wine circle in 1996 and from then on we got a lot more advice on what to do.”
Maureen is secretary of the Hopkinsons Beer & Wine Circle, which meets monthly in Marsh. Members of the group exhibit their products and provide tastings at the annual flower, vegetable and handicraft show in Greenhead Park.
“I make between one and five gallons at a time,” she said. “I make some for Christmas and put special labels on the bottles to give as gifts. I just like doing things.
“It need not be an expensive hobby. It’s as expensive as you want to make it and there’s all sorts of equipment you can buy.”
Maureen, who had a variety of jobs with firms including LB Holliday and ICI before retirement, sticks with traditional methods.
“When we bought 20 crates of grapes they were crushed for us by a machine,” she said. “But I tread my own grapes. They go into a big bucket and I tread them with my bare feet.”