My very first interest in learning more about wine started during an English Wine Producers‘ tasting at the Great British Cheese Festival around 10 years ago. The realisation that there could be a future in producing wine made from grapes grown in this country, ignited a real excitement in me that wine had failed to do in the past and it’s what prompted me to apply to complete my WSET courses. A far from romantic affair, run in an old science lab at Bracknell and Wokingham College, both my Intermediate and Advanced courses delivered an anti-climatic one page, 10 minute passing over of wine from England and Wales amongst the intrigue of the rest of the world’s wines.
To distract me further, all thoughts of English wine were then buried under piles of laundry and dirty nappies. Until that is, my interest was reignited in the form of a bottle of Nyetimber Classic Cuvee produced to celebrate my birthday last summer.
Since then, my English wine nerdiness has spiralled, the pinnacle of which saw me presenting an English wine tasting, so, imagine my delight when an invitation to ‘An Evening with Nyetimber‘ came my way! Not just a Nyetimber tasting, but a wine and dinner pairing at the one and only The Vineyard at Stockcross, the 5-star boutique hotel, spa and restaurant between Hungerford and Newbury. Cue much jubilation and clicking of heels (if I could click my heels, but that’s a whole other story) and off I drove into the sunset last Sunday night with the wind in my hair and the promise of a first class dinner and watering .
I was greeted in the lobby of The Vineyard with a glass of the recently released 2009 Nyetimber Classic Cuvee, over the glass floor offering a sneaky peek down into the 30,000 bottle cellar. A fabulously buttery and dry sparkling blend of the 3 classic Champagne grapes, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier with some good acidity. The perfect appetiser and tonic to dull the panic that only a woman wearing the same dress as someone else in the room can feel – luckily we were both amused, mainly due to the disbelief that anyone else shops in Dorothy Perkins.
Kara and Kelly from The Vineyard took me under their wing, and quenched my wine-trivia thirst by telling me all about the massive 3000 bottle wine list, how there is 100 wines available by the glass (top marks!!!) and even of their ‘Iconic Ingulgence‘ nights where one of their rarer bottles is opened and customers can reserve a the glass ahead of time. I hinted at the opportunity of a cellar tour but sadly, I missed out (there’s always next time).
Nyetimber’s charming Julian Kirk then kicked off the evening with an introduction into what we could expect from the evening before we headed into the private dining room for dinner, each of the opulent 4-courses complimented perfectly by its own glass of different Nyetimber sparkling wine;
1. Nyetimber Blanc de Blancs ’96 (Sparkling English Wine, £82.46 (magnum)) paired with Foie Gras. A beautifully aged, 100% Chardonnay wine (as all Blanc de Blancs are), this was richly golden in colour with an oaky nose and a full creamy palate. The best vintage of the ’90’s for Nyetimber, this wine is only saved for special people like me who will appreciate it 🙂 (lucky me!) .
2. Nyetimber Classic Cuvee 2005 paired with Lyme Bay Plaice; Having been told previously that English Sparkling wine only improves with age, I was rather hoping for some kind of vertical tasting, and here we have it. I was driving, so I had plenty of the initial 2009 left to compare. The 2005 was much more complex with nutty and toasty notes. Undoubtedly my favourite wine tasted during the evening, hence proving the theory of aging. For a homegrown DIY vertical tasting, the 2004 is available at Majestic (great value on offer at time of writing for £23.99) and I’d love to pitch this against Ocado‘s 2008 (£29.99).
3. Nyetimber Rose 2009 paired with melt-in-the-mouth Pork fillet, apple, cabbage and ginger. The delicate hint of ginger was delightful and enhanced beautifully by the strawberry palate of this IWC Gold Medal winning fizz, albeit a little sweet for me (Hennings £35.50).
4. Nyetimber Demi-Sec NV(Harvey Nicholls £34)paired with Almond Biscotti, Sauteed nectarine and Peach, this wine is medium-sweet and a real surprise. This was definitely my favourite pairing of the meal, this wine complemented pudding to a tee. 100% Chardonnay again, but oaked and the first demi-sec sparkling to be released in England. I’m not usually a demi-sec kind of girl, but the wine tasted dry against the sweetness of the dish and brought out the fruit. Delicious!
All in all, a magnificent meal and a rare opportunity to taste a range of Nyetimber’s sparkling wines and how they can vary. The Vineyard run various wine and food dinners such as this throughout the year and considering how challenging matching sparkling wine with food is, if this particular event was anything to gauge against, expect the food and wine pairing to be spot on. To anyone toying with studying for a WSET qualification, The Vineyard are also offering WSET wine school courses (a rather more exotic experience than Bracknell College).
The next time I’m looking for an extravagant evening away, The Vineyard, who will be holding a Wine Festival 18-19 October, would be at the top of my list. Kara, Kelly, if you’re reading this, I’d love to come if you promise me a cellar tour 😉 .