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Sheila is a Winemaker Extraordinaire

Norfolk Wine-Makers Guild Appeals for New Members

Good quality wine for under £1 a bottle may sound like a pipedream but to members of the Norfolk Winemakers Guild it is a reality. 

The Guild, which meets in Hethersett Village Hall on the third Wednesday of the month (except for August and December), has launched a recruitment drive to encourage more people to take up the winemaking hobby and literally enjoy the fruits of their labour. 

A few years ago home winemaking was all the rage according to keen club member and Hethersett resident Sheila Coleman: “Now young people don’t seem to have the patience. They go into a supermarket and get a bottle off the shelf for £3.99 and can drink it immediately.” 

Sheila Coleman raises a glass to her home-wade mine, surrounded by trophies and demijohns

Sheila, however, has found winemaking to be the ideal hobby. To produce the perfect bottle takes an element of time and patience but the results can be very rewarding as Sheila has found in the 20 years since she took up winemaking. 

Unbelievably Sheila makes gallons of wine without being able to smell or taste it following a number of serious operations before and after a brain tumour 30 years ago. 

The tasting is left to husband Brian who is always willing to help, although he admits he has never made a single drop himself. “I leave that to Sheila. I just help out by tasting it. Much of the wine is made from pure fruit juice and I have to say we never seem to suffer from colds. I think that’s due to the fruit content of the wines,” he said. 

Sheila makes gallons of home made wine at a time – using a variety of ingredients including orange juice and fruit either bought or picked themselves. Sheila says that virtually anything that has a juice can be used providing it isn’t poisonous. The couple regularly tap a beech tree in their garden to make sap wine and have also used rose petals, rose hips, figs and even oak leaves. 

Typically to make five bottles of top class home made wine from orange juice can cost as little as £2.50 and that includes the cost of the yeast and other nutrients. This cost comes down even more when Sheila picks blackcurrants, blackberries and other fruit herself. 

The fruit juice is mixed with sugar and yeast and other nutrients and allowed to ferment and settle before the residue is “racked off” and the process continues. Normally from the start to having something to drink will take approximately 10 weeks although the Coleman’s prefer to leave theirs a little longer. In the past winemaking has involved leaving cloth covered buckets of juice around the house. This is no longer necessary thanks to the introduction of special wine-making steamers. 

Sheila, who like husband Brian is 79 years of age, has been a member of the Norfolk Winemakers Guild for many years after the Hethersett Vintners group disbanded. She is also a former club secretary. The NWG was founded in 1958 and originally met in Norwich Assembly Rooms. It will be celebrating its golden jubilee next year. 

“The cost of hiring facilities in Norwich rose and there was a problem parking and somebody suggested we should move to Hethersett Village Hall which is a very pleasant venue. We are keen to encourage some new people to come along and see what we do,” Sheila said. 

The club has a full programme throughout the year that includes speakers on both wine-related and non wine-related topics. The club also has outings – this year they went to the end of the pier show at Cromer. Each meeting features a wine competition and home made varieties are often compared against commercial wines. 

Coming meetings include the club’s agm in the Humphrey Back room at Hethersett Village Hall on January 9th, a talk by Malcolm Cooper about Norfolk Wherry sailing boats on February 20th and a talk by Peter Cook about Nelson’s Navy on March 19th 

The Winemakers’ Guild currently attracts members from Hingham, Hethersett, Sprowston, Taverham, Costessey, Heartsease, Thorpe End, Wymondham and Long Stratton. 

Anybody interested in joining the group can turn up on club evenings or obtain more details from Sheila and Brian Coleman on 01603 811184.