Sambrook’s Brewery in the heart of south London

I know I usually blog about wine but what’s more traditional then real English cask ale in the heart of London? Being an American and a winedrinker primarily, I’ve never really gotten into the whole ale thing but I was given the chance to tour Sambrook’s brewery in Battersea to learn more about this very English beverage. At one point, London was a huge producer of English ales but most breweries have closed, with Fuller’s in Chiswick being the only major brewery still in operation. Duncan Sambrook just thought it was plain wrong that London had only one brewery. Duncan had a vision to open his own London based brewery. By a stroke of luck, he met and partnered up with David Welsh, formerly of Ringwood Best Bitter, to open up a twenty barrel plant in Battersea. The place has only been in operations 4 months but they are doing gangbusters. Real English Ale is made with only 4 ingredients, water, malt, yeast and hops and the cask ale is similar to champagne with it’s second fermentation, it’s technically “alive” when it leaves the brewery because it’s not pasteurized so the yeast is still able to work it’s magic.  I found out that the ale even “ages” in the bottle and although it has a limited shelf life, it does improve with age. I guess you could say it’s an accelerated version of aging wine. They also use isinglass to fine it, just like wine. I was liking the sound of this ale more and more. During our tour we got to see the malt before it’s ground up, they aim to use as many traditionally produced ingredients as possible and Duncan told us all about how the malt was roasted and then turned by hand for 3 days with a special pitchfork! That was pretty cool. He also showed us the hops, they use 3 to give their ale it’s distinctive flavours- Fuggles, Goldings and Boadicae (they sound like a law firm to me). Boudicea was specially produced for English ale making. We even got to stick...

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Road trip to Davenport Vineyard (and video)

What better way to spend a lovely early spring day ( and my birthday) then a day out in the English countryside, visiting an English vineyard. No sniggers, please. England has been making wines since Roman times but only as recently as the 90’s have the English really gotten serious about producing quality wines. Whether it has to do with global warming or not, some are now winning major wine awards. Thanks to Nytimber, Denbies, Camel Valley and Hush Heath (which I’ve written about previously) to name a few, England is quickly gaining a  reputation in the wine world for producing quality sparkling wines (and still wines are coming up), having won a number of international wine  accolades and awards. I visited Davenport Vineyards in Rotherfield, East Sussex with Kathryn O’Mara from Artisan & Vine. She’s keen on sourcing as many natural and local wines as possible for her winebar so we were down to try the local stuff. Once there, we discovered that Davenport is also a natural, organic farm – bonus! We were greeted by a friendly black labrador, Nelson, and after picking out way through the hodge-podge of building materials laying about – they are currently renovating their 14th century barn, we found Will Davenport in his lab testing his latest wines for sulfur content. Will is the owner and winemaker of Davenport and originally planted his vines in 1991. Currently there are 12 acres under vine and the vineyard has been managed organically since 2000 under certification by the UK Soil Association. Will tries to use as little intervention as possible – natural yeasts, no fining or filtering, no pesticides, fungicides and he uses organic winemaking practices. Will aims to make wines that showcase the soil and the fruit of his wines, not his wine manipulating skills. We had the opportunity to try the Limney Estate, ’07 Horsmunden Dry White, the Limney Estate ’05 sparkling and the Duchy of Cornwall Sparkling, which Will makes for the Prince’s Trust. Check out the video to see...

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Message in a bottle

I, literally, got a message in a bottle the other day. Turns out the FriendsofGlass have found me and want me to join in their campaign. Seems glass containers are getting a bad rap nowadays what with PET, tetrapak, cardboard containers, amongst other kinds of alternative packaging to good ol’ glass bottles. What are the cons against glass? Weight has to be one of the biggies, so to speak. Have you seen the size of some of the wine  bottles coming out of the New World, especially South America? They can weigh  up to half a pound. Add the wine and we’re heading into some serious carbon mileage. So, I can see the attractions of PET, tetrapak and plastic on that  front. Glass also breaks and you could get a rather nasty cut if one broke at the beach or at a picnic. The upside to glass? It’s most virtuous quality has to be the fact that it’s 100% recyclable and can be recycled again and again, unlike plastic which takes centuries to biodegrade,  is made from all sorts of nasty petrochemicals and  usually has limited recyclability. Glass, on the other hand, is made up of only 3 ingredients: sand, soda ash and limestone. Glass is also an inert container so there’s no danger of the contents being contaminated by outside flavours or aromas or the contents picking up any unwanted flavours from the container. Glass also has a 5000 year old relationship with mankind so why should turn our back on such a faithful friend? Is plastic really eco-friendly and/or carbon friendly? Does it make a difference if you use glass or plastic? I’ve been recruited by Friends of Glass to do some taste comparisons of glass versus plastic. As readers of my blog know already, I’m a big fan of Riedel glassware so maybe I’m a bit biased. Friends of Glass have their own blog if you’re interested in finding out more about this campaign along with their 5 good reasons to use glass. You can also check...

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Bibendum sale – ends 13th Feb

  Yeah, Bibendum is having their twice yearly big sale – up to 40% off on a great selection of wines. The sale started last week  and ends 13th Feb but I just haven’t had a chance to check it out. They’ve got everything from Champagne to Burgundy & Bordeaux, Sweet wines and Port and even magnums and halves! Talk about an embarrassment of riches!  So head on over to their site and check out all the great offers. My friends and I are pooling our money together as we speak. Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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Win Naked!

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Naked Wines are launching a competition to win £1000 worth of wine for your wedding! I usually think Valentine’s Day is a triumph of marketing, much like Mother’s Day but  Naked have come up with something original to celebrate the month of love. They’ve come up with a video competition. Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to send in a video of you proposing to your loved one. All you have to do is video it ( a re-enactment is fine), upload  it to their site and then get your friends to visit the site and vote for you. Easy-peasy. What better way to save a bit of change on your big day, especially nowadays what with the depression recession and all. Rules, rules, rules…the basics – open to UK residents, must be over 18, the wedding has to take place in 2009/2010, and only one video per couple, click here for complete rules.  The contest is open from 3 Feb 09 to 1 March 09. AND every couple who enters gets a £25 voucher to spend on the Naked website. So get out those camcorders/mobilephone cameras/video recorders and get going! Check out the latest entrants here Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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Reds (mostly) and lamb for dinner

  Sunday dinner at mine. Rack of lamb, good friends and lots of fab wine. Ayesha, John and I provided the food and everyone else had to bring a wine. The aperitifs –  ’02 Blin vintage champagne and the Balfour Brut Sparkling Rose. The Balfour again getting rave reviews, Penny said that it could easily be confused with the Taittanger Rose. The Balfour was great with the bacon wrapped chestnuts but not so good with the chili olives – live and learn… I twittered the evening so I have some record of what we drank. Here are the highlights. Starting off with Albert Bichot ’06 Puligny Montrachet and garlic prawns. A lovely village level wine from the Cote de Beaune, still quite fresh and lemony with a great balance of fruit and alcohol, washed down those prawns in no time. What to have with the rack of lamb? I started with Penny and Paul’s contibution, the Rene Bouvier ’03 Cote de Nuits-Village, fantastic gamey, savoury, meaty pinot noir with plush raspberry and other red berry fruits – perfect with the lamb. According to my tweets, the next wine was the Qupé Los Olivos Cuvee ’06. A Rhone style blend from the Santa Ynez Valley that I had picked up when I was CA for the WBC in Oct. Comments on the Qupé – black fruits, a bit alcholic, slightly unbalanced we thought because of that but full and rich with hints of sweet spice and a  licorice finish. Penny said it was a bit scatterbrained, still needed time to age but the potential was definitely there.  Great structure with a long lasting finish. Back to the Old World with a St. Julien, Ch. Lagrange ’96 that James dug up. Amazing nose on this bordeaux, it smelled like a butcher shop, dried blood, mint, wood spice, cigar box notes – Ana observed lots of secondary characteristics. It was excellent with the food, the tannins still quite evident  but not harsh and standing up to the lamb beautifully.   Jumping across the Atlantic, the Chilean Domus Aurea...

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