English Wine Week with Hush Heath Estates

May 28, 14 English Wine Week with Hush Heath Estates

Posted by in All, England, Food and Wine

English Wine Week has begun and last night I was invited to the new pub, The Bull at the Hyde in the City to a dinner hosted by the Richard Balfour-Lynn, the owner of English vineyard, Hush Heath Estates. This was the first dinner for  the pub’s new tasting club, The Cunning Plan Wine & Spirits Club. Richard first planted vines in 2002 because he had always wanted a vineyard but in Spain or France or Italy. When the opportunity to buy the derelict land near his estate in Kent came up, his wife suggested that instead of going to the Continent, why not plant vines literally in his own backyard. The rest as they say is history. I’ve always liked the Hush Heath rosé and last night was no exception. I really enjoyed the food matches that Chef Kalifa Diakhaby created for the evening. The Balfour Brut rosé 2010 was paired with perfectly roasted scallops with pureed cauliflower. The scallops were delicious, not mushy or rubbery as can happen so often. The rosé is full of fruit but having refreshing acidity and long length. With the main of rabbit terrine, we had the Balfour Blanc de blanc 2010. The rabbit was another delicious dish, perfumed with truffle oil and garnished with sauteed mushrooms. The blanc de blanc that was paired with it comes from a small parcel of chardonnay from the Oast House Meadow and only 100 cases have been made. 2010 was a very good year and the grapes were allowed to hang until late October, which gave grapes with high sugar content and intense flavours. The blanc de blanc was well balanced with definite fruity notes on the palate but a dry, lime finish. The big surprise of the evening was the Jake’s Orchard Sparkling Cider with Strawberries and Blackcurrants. It’s a bottle fermented cider that has a dosage of strawberries and blackcurrants added. Richard commented that this is a “cider made for wine drinkers by wine makers…” It was the...

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Working a vintage, my first week on the job at London Cru

Sep 15, 13 Working a vintage, my first week on the job at London Cru

Posted by in All, England, Lifestyle, London

Phew! I am knackered. I’ve just finished my first week at my new job and I’m exhausted. When I signed up as Event Coordinator for the first urban winery in London, London Cru (opening to the public early Nov. 2013), they vaguely mentioned something about helping out with the vintage in the winery. I, of course, jumped on that and said I’d be happy to help out. Little did I know that I would get to be a fully pledged and integrated member of the team (read: cellar rat). I am getting such a kick from spending all day in the winery and learning so much. Gavin Monery, the winemaker, is more than happy to answer all my questions and genuinely wants to share his passion for the vine.  Lots of winemakers started out as cellar rats and although I may be late coming to the game, there’s still hope for me yet. The concept behind the winery is to bring the wine making experience to Londoners. It’s not very easy to gain access to a winery during vintage time but at London Cru, you’ll have the opportunity to participate in all aspects of the wine making experience with their winemaker. As a wine lover living in London, I’d be thrilled if I was able to ruck up to Zone 2 (Earls Court) and make wine in a real, fully equipped winery. Well, soon you will be able to do just that. The winery is going to be open year round for events, dinners, tastings, masterclasses and even Christmas parties as well as other such happenings. At the moment though, we’re concentrating on making our wine which should be available next year. Anyway, the grapes arrived on my second day in the job and I was thrown in the winery as the first load of 4 tonnes of chardonnay from Ch. Corneilla in the Roussillon arrived. Sorting, pressing, and putting the must into tanks used up most of the day and at the end,...

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Wine (and food) on a Brighton getaway

Apr 19, 12 Wine (and food) on a Brighton getaway

Posted by in England, Food and Wine, Lifestyle

I was invited down to Brighton recently to check out the Brighton and Hove food and wine festival. I’ve been to Brighton a few times and it is relatively easy to get there from London. If you can’t be bothered to do all the legwork yourself you can find Brighton Holidays online. The last time I was there for a winemaker’s dinner at the Hotel du Vin Brighton, so I was pleasantly surprised to hear that part of the festival was being held at the hotel and that they would be putting me up for the night there. This isn’t my first time at HdV Brighton, I’ve stayed there in the past and always enjoy walking into the comforting decor of the hotel, alternating between dark and blonde wood, cozy couches and chairs scattered around the main bar and a bustling bistro next to it. From the outside, the building dates back to the 16th-17thth century, complete with timber and whitewalls on certain parts of the hotel.  The interior though has all the mod cons and the suites come with giant bathtubs for a soak after spending the day at the beach, which by the way is literally across the road from the hotel. There’s also a charming courtyard as well as a suntrap of a terrace on the first floor. The hotel was putting on a small wine festival and had local producers and wine shops on hand to show off their wines. There was a large proportion of English wines available, including Ridgeview, Bolney’s and even Plumpton College had their local sparkling on offer. I also tried a fantastic pinot blanc from Stopham Estates. They are located in West Sussex and are the only producers of pinot blanc in the UK. The wine was not at all what I was expecting, not tasting like an English wine. By that I mean it didn’t have the telltale elderflower aromas or flavours nor was it slightly off dry. Bright and chipper, balanced fruit and...

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North 52 Bar & Kitchen… British food and wine in Soho

All things British is what’s hot in London, what with the Olympics, the Queen’s Jubilee and of course, the ever present eat/drink local. There’s a new spot in Soho specializing in modern British food, 52 North Kitchen & Bar on Poland St. where all the ingredients are sourced from Britain, including many of the wines. A big open space, with communal tables and interestingly, wooden roof shingles instead of wallpaper covering the walls and columns. There is a long bar at running from one side of the room to the other and several old Chesterfield leather chairs and sofas in alcoves scattered around the room. There’s also a cozy basement with another bar to hang out in. What drew me into 52 North was the wine list, more specifically, they are one of the only places in Soho that features English wine by the glass, both still and sparkling. They have 5 still wines and 1 sparkling at the moment but are going to be adding more in the future. I’ve been a bit dubious about English still wines but the Biddenden Gribble Bridge ortega as well as their Bacchus were both refreshing, tasty and easy to drink. The menu consists of trad dishes like mushrooms on toast, scotch woodcock, Cornish mussels, English pork chop and Arbroath smokies fish cakes among other choices with prices about the same as many a gastropub around Central London.  I had the mushroooms and mussels which were delicious with the Biddenden Gribble Bridge 2010. The Gribble Bridge had plenty of bright citrus fruit on the nose, full of fruit but dry nonetheless. I found it very easy to drink. The Bacchus was another light wine, a good substitute for pinot grigio it has a bit more substance to it, more flavour then the average pinot grigio. Priced at £25 quid, I thought it might be a bit pricy, but Tony Ho, part of the operating team, told me that the Bacchus and Gribble Bridge have been flying out...

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English sparkling wine coming soon(ish) from the Isle of Sark

Jan 06, 12 English sparkling wine coming soon(ish) from the Isle of Sark

Posted by in England, Sparkling Wine, Travel

To be the first outside of the winemakers to try an experimental wine made by a well known Bordelais vigneron (with said winemaker standing right next to me) can be a bit nerve wracking. What if I hate it? What if it’s rubbish? What if I’m wrong and everyone else loves it? Well, none of those things happened when I found myself tasting the very first bottle of savagnin, fresh from the barrel. Savagnin is not a grape that I’m familiar with even if it does feature in the vin jaune wines of the Jura region. So, I was delighted and surprised to discover it was the first ever vintage of Sark wine. Yes, Sark as in the “Isle of,” one of the Channel Islands, closer the France then England but British nonetheless. The Sark savagnin was an experimental wine and in reality would only be used in small quantities for the final sparkling wine blend but it was intriguing to try the results of the first harvest of Sark. I was tasting with the Bordelais flying winemaker  and consultant, Alain Reynaud, who has been with the project from the very beginning. The vines were planted barely 18 months ago but a lot of care and planning went into the project before one vine was planted. Alain and soil consultant, David Pernet made many trips to the island to assess the terroir and find the best possible spots. The very first thing Alain did when he visited was to start digging through the first plot of land he was shown with his bare hands to see if the soil was suitable. They spent 6 months analyzing the soil before finally picking what they believe to be the best locations. Luckily, the island is primarily made up of granite and schist with a thin layer of topsoil – perfect to make those vines work hard. I don’t know what time of year Alain visited but I was there a few weeks ago (early Dec) and...

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Oddbins – back on track?

Like many in the UK wine trade, I started off in my wine career at Oddbins. I came to Odd after it’s heyday but it was still a great place to learn about wine both for  us employees and the customers. Sadly, Oddbins couldn’t keep up with the times and due to  years of neglect and mismanagement, went the way of the Dodo, or so we thought. Like a phoenix risen from the ashes, they’re back –  streamlined and with a new core range. Due to the unfortunate circumstances of it’s demise, there is still quite a bit of caution surrounding the chain but after a recent visit to the Northcote Road branch where Head Buyer, Emma Nichols, had a load of wines open to taste, I think that Oddbins may be on the pathway to regaining it’s reputation as a fun place to not only encounter new wines but also learn a bit while you’re there. Emma and Oddbins’s other buyer Ana Sapungiu, are  building the core range around what Oddbins sees as relatively familiar wines but also wines that are dynamic and of interest to the range. Those wines will come from the select and limited parcels of wine. Parcels will be ongoing across the range and once they are gone, they’re gone. They now have a core range of 350 -400 wines and on top of that will have  special parcels of between 100- 150 different wines. Their new philosophy encompasses not only the range of interesting parcels but also the idea that if the consumer is looking for a Rioja, Sauvignon blanc or any other “usual suspect”, they’ll find one at a certain price point. They built the range over what are the key price points and regions that wine shops should have.  When they visited a region, they started with a price in mind but once they arrived, if they found that it was impossible to get a good quality wine at that price point, they went up on...

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