The First Twenty Years

“You not only drink wine but you breathe it, you sip it…. And then you speak about it.”  This is the motto of the Orlando Red Wine Club, which celebrates its 20th birthday this year, July 2000.

To readers who have not attended a club meeting the night consists of a number of members and invited guests, approximately 40, who have a common interest of love for a red wine.  Five to six bottles of wine are masked to hide the details and members attempt to draw on their knowledge and wine judging skills to identify a number of features about that wine.  As you can imagine a lot of good humour and guessing is the order of the night.  The night concludes with a great meal, more red wine and a fine port.

The success of any club is largely determined by the support of its members and committee, the Orlando Red Wine Club, is no exception.  The difference with this club is, the committee consists of one person, Bruce Theile.  Bruce has for many years given an enormous amount of time to the arranging of each meeting, selecting the wine mix for the night and acting as Wine-master for the evening.  He also arranges guest speakers, venues and on occasions bottling sessions for the members.  I will take this opportunity on behalf of members to thank Bruce for giving of his valuable time to ensure the ongoing success of the Orlando Red Wine Club.  I will also, on behalf of the members offer thanks to ORLANDO who have allowed us to use their premises for meetings over the past 20 years.  For many years meetings were held at the Rowland Flat winery until most recently when we moved to Richmond Grove Winery.  Holding meetings in the wineries adds to the atmosphere of the night, I feel it just wouldn’t be same if they were held elsewhere.

I was introduced to the club in 1983 and soon found difficulty with remembering the good wines so I decided to record each wine for later reference.  I also recorded a number of features about each wine including the general comments from the members.

The following pages list the wines the club has tasted over the past 20 years except for a few which have been omitted due to the odd occasion when I was unable to attend.  Of the meetings missed I had other members gather details for me but unfortunately some were still missed.  If any readers can identify wines missed then I would appreciate a copy, which I will include in the update.

The comments about each wine are in most cases purely as I saw them on the night.  I do not profess to be a wine judge or be blessed with a library of terms as used by the professionals, my comments are basic, simple descriptive terms describing the colour, taste and aromas as I saw it.  On occasions when I was able to obtain the wine makers notes I used some of their comments.

I have included at the end of the wine list a series of reports detailing the number of wine styles tasted, number of wines from the various makers, the areas from which the fruit came from, the number of wines tasted from various vintages and finally a trivia section.  These reports make for interesting reading.

Bruce Thiele has written the section on the history of the club and in it he mentions many members have come and gone over the past twenty years but the club still remains as popular as ever and still boasts a waiting list, further proof of the strength of the club.

It would be remiss of me not to mention Jon Fechner and Bruce, both are original members, congratulations you are both truly red wine lovers.

The compilation and preparation of this book has been an enormous amount of work and time, more time than I could give so I must thank my wife Dyan for her assistance with the entries and proof reading.  I will also thank her for her understanding of my commitment to the club as on a number of occasions over the past 20 years her birthday clashed with Orlando Red Wine Club and, you guessed it, her birthday was celebrated on another day.   

To both my sons I say many thanks, Andrew for his expertise with developing and maintaining the computer system and program and, for the generation of the many reports contained in this book.  His involvement over the years has had an effect because he too is now a member of this great club.  Matthew’s contribution has been the design of the book cover and general layout; it’s been very handy having my own graphic designer on call.  At this stage he has not developed a liking for red wine but give him time. Finally, happy 20th birthday Orlando Red Wine Club and I look forward to many more meetings and great wines.

Rex Way


On his arrival from Orlando Wines Griffith Cellars in early 1980 Dennis Warren bought with him many ideas, one being the format for a successful club they were running in Griffith before he left and is still running today.  The love and appreciation of real wine for real men, the truth serum that we have all grown to appreciate today.  ‘Red Wine’.

Dennis rang a few doctors, big drinkers with big wallets, and many other prominent local business people and invited them to the first meeting.  Set his limit of a maximum of 25 people and charged them $5.00 for the privilege of visiting Orlando, partaking in a BBQ and imbibing red wine.

July 1980 the birth of the Orlando Red Wine Club.  Dennis provided some rough Griffith wines for a masked tasting and sowed the seeds on people providing wines for tasting.  Only need one bottle to cover 20 – 25 people.

I made one mistake, I picked most of the wines and have been Wine-master ever since, except for those few occasions that we have guest speakers.

Popularity has increased steadily over the years and we did not take long to progress to two bottles of each wine.  Numbers are now to a steady forty members each meeting with a long waiting list for guests and potential new members.  Even a constant price rise from $5.00 to $20.00 has not deterred and it is flattering for all concerned to know that the club has not waned in popularity.  Many members have come and gone and been replaced but still the format is still much the same. 

Now as our 20 years as a club looms up we are still here drinking wine.  The venue had changed to Richmond Grove in 1999, which was sad but a necessary change to ensure we could continue.

 The support from Orlando continues with the supply of the ‘House Red’ and ‘Port’ and thus keeping prices down. 

The chefs have changed over the years also.  From members cooking the meals to now days being catered for by Rex Petrie.  The value for money still remains.

We still experience some changes in membership but the core still remains with some very long serving people who have experienced many wines.  Are we any closer to identifying all the wines?  Probably not but what the hell the fun is in trying many different wines that would probably not be available to us under normal circumstances.

To our long standing scribe Rex Way a big thank you for tirelessly jotting down all the products over the years and making sure that if he had to miss a meeting that some one was on hand to make all the notes.  This is going to make for interesting reading and will jog a few memories.

The fellowship has been great.  The distance travelled each month by some groups is flattering, I hope it all continues and you all continue to enjoy the real wine; ‘RED’.

Appreciation of red wine is still foremost in everyone’s minds and everyone is still learning.

Here’s to the next 20 years. Cheers,

Bruce Thiele

Click Here to View The Wine of the Night 1984 to 2000

Click Here to View The Tasting Wines 1981 to 2000

Click Here For Some Club Trivia