Three days of gourmet food, cracking music and lush vibes you say?
Like the best pub garden maybe EVER? And not just gourmet food, but a whole festival of Michelin-starred gourmet food?
Well I’m in. I’m not sure there could be anything more up my alley.
As an advocator of English Wine and local produce, it has been my pleasure to have been working alongside perhaps my most local vineyard, Dropmore Vineyard. It was therefore, with real sadness that I learnt of the recent loss of Mr Dropmore himself, John Petersen (30 June 1936 – 29 March 2016).
John’s passion for his 3 acres of vineyard in Littleworth Common (nr. Burnham), was unsurpassed – never before have I seen such lovingly cultivated vines. John planted his 2500 vines in 2008 with a mixture of Chardonnay, Bacchus, Pinot Noir, Ortega and Pinot Meunier, with John’s first harvest following in 2010 with a crop of Bacchus.
I’ve been lucky enough to work with John since his crisp and fruity Bacchus 2013 vintage was released and it is at least good news to hear that the vineyard will continue to be worked and Dropmore Wines will live on in his memory. I’m just sad that John never got to taste his first sparkling wine, which has just been released and is a jolly good drop!
As a salute to John, I will have his award winning Dropmore Vineyard Pinot Blush 2013 open to taste on Sunday 8th May at Maidenhead’s Eat on the High Street. John received the Best Still Rosé Wine Award in the T&CVA 2015 Annual Wine Challenge back in September 2015, a great achievement. His Bacchus also won a Bronze Award, so well done him!
Chin Chin John!
If you’ve ever been to one of my pop-up wine stalls, you will be familiar with just how blue a person’s lips can turn. For some reason, the weather is generally against me and I stand bearing the freezing cold, gales (no snow so far) and rain, purely for the love of wine.
If you’ve never been to one of my pop-up wine stalls and you live local to Maidenhead, love wine or just fancy coming to poke fun at the nutter in the earmuffs selling wine outdoors, please do come and find me. The usual format is me talking a lot about wine, a boot load of wine boxes and several wines open to taste, all under the protective cover of my pop-up stall (or as one kindly customer sneered “Pop-up? It’s a tent!”).
My last outing was at Fernygrove Farm in Hawthorn Hill, between Maidenhead and Bracknell back on a particularly freezing cold April Saturday (yes, Perfect Friday Wine can be drunk on a Saturday, or any day of the week). This was a new wine pop-up location for Perfect Friday Wine with a cafe, florist, farm shop and butcher to boot and I saw many of my lovely, loyal customers up there as well as meeting new ones! I had a whole raft of wine open to taste and buy and had a great day – where there is other brilliant food, there is the desire for fabulous wine. Here’s a reminder of those on taste, all handpicked with springtime in mind.
Casa Silva Pinot Noir Reserva: One of the best value Pinot Noirs I’ve come across, the Casa Silva Reserva from Chile is a delight of cherry fruits, delicious and a lighter for the spring. I hadn’t tasted this vintage (2014) since February myself and I was reminded as to just how fantastic a Pinot this is. I enjoyed the leftovers very much once I’d warmed up on the following Tuesday, when it was still drinking superbly.
Villa Blanche Grenache Rosè: Springtime sunshine marks rosè time! The delicate and delicious Villa Blanche Grenache is Languedoc in origin, Provençal in style, dry, pretty, peachy and great value. From the genius of Calmel and Joseph, this is just as good as their Villa Blanche Picpoul de Pinet and Syrah and went down a storm (likely because it was kept so blimin’ chilled) – definitely the WINE OF THE DAY.
Bluebell Vineyard Estates Blanc de Blancs 2011: It’s Bluebell season, so this award winning Sussex fizz seemed fitting to open. Interestingly, this has been in the press twice since, firstly on Olly Smith’s recommendation on The Daily Mail Online and then ‘Food Matcher’ Fiona Beckett stating what ‘good value’ it is on theguardian.com. As I continue my championing of English Wine, it’s good to see it, the sparkling in particular, getting a louder ‘voice’. This is a class or 5 above the cheap Prosecco that’s enjoyed so heartily in the UK – it’s Champagne method, Champagne grapes and excitingly, from our own fair shores – just don’t call it Champagne (Wine fact: did you know that Taittinger have bought land in Kent to begin planting vines? Even the French are on it).
Calmel and Joseph ‘Les Cuvèes Rare’ La Ruffe 2013: New to PFW this spring and lush, this saw its first outing back in March where I chilled myself (and the wine) to the bone at my Emmett’s Farm Pop-Up in Little Marlow. I must find a way to keep my reds warm enough so that by 2pm they’re not fridge cold. In the words of wine critic Tamlyn Currin, who rated La Ruffe a very high 17+ out of 20: “50% Carignan, 40% Syrah, 10% Cinsault. They didn’t want to pump the wine, so they had to carry it down with a pick-up truck. No filtration. Dark chocolate, peppermint, green herbs. Lots of black chocolate, lots of power, massive structure. Thick velvet-and-portcullis tannins with opulent fruit firmly behind bars at the moment, but it’s definitely there. Tightly bound. Very imposing. A sleeping dragon. Needs five to 10 years. Drink 2019-2026” Although I think it’s rather nice right now (agreed that it will only get better)! Full article on jancisrobinson.com.
So, there we have it. April’s Wine Pop-Up summarised. Where can you find me next? After a while away, I’ll be bringing wine back to Maidenhead High Street on Sunday 8th May, joining the new street food market Eat on the High Street alongside a whole gang of other local food producers. Keep posted on my events page or better still, sign up sign up to the Perfect Friday Wine Newsletter to keep up to date with my whereabouts over summer 2016 and beyond.
Whereas I just left the sunny Languedoc in full swing, with the majority of their harvest safely in tanks, things are only just starting to get going in the UK on the grape harvest for the 2015 wine vintage.
Grapes need a whole lot of sunshine hours to ripen, and although the UK days are long, as you’ll know, the sunshine can be a little minimal. In the hot and dry regions of the world, grapes have no problem ripening, but in cooler climates like the UK, we’re reliant on a long growing season to maximise the grape ripeness to develop the sugars and flavours in the grape to produce enough alcohol. A long, warm September like we’re experiencing definitely helps to ripen off the grapes and vineyards around the South East of England are now beginning to plan their 2015 harvest.
If fancy getting involved with harvesting at a vineyard, look no further to many of the vineyards here in the UK who are on the look out for volunteers or others selling tickets for those less green fingered amongst you who fancy more of an ‘experience’. Of the 400+ vineyards in the UK, there’s loads of harvesting opportunity to be had, but here are a handful of the ones that I’m familiar with in the South East, all producing excellent wine and guaranteed to show you a great day out however hard you fancy working;
Chafor Wine Estate, Gawcott, Buckinghamshire, MK18 4HT
Be part of the CHAFOR Grand Harvest 2015 on 17th and/ or 18th October. Tim Chafor heads up this family owned vineyard set in the midst of the Buckinghamshire countryside, not far from Oxford and Milton Keynes. Their first release of still wines was their 2013 vintage, featuring award winning Bacchus, Chardonnay and Rosé, their sparkling wine is yet to be released.
Perks include lunch (FYI, Tim has a pizza oven and does jolly fine pizzas!), wine to take home and a VIP invitation to the Grand Harvest Supper.
Book your place now: email@example.com or call Tim on: 07973 892427
Oaken Grove Vineyard, Fawley, Henley-on-Thames, Buckinghamshire (just over the Oxfordshire border).
We helped owner, Phil Rossi, with his bountiful harvest on a beautiful sunny, autumnal day last year, picking his Bacchus grapes. I say we, because it was a family affair and the kids came too and were surprisingly, not too annoying. This year, he hopes that harvesting will start on 17th October for the Bacchus and the following weekend for the Pinot Noir, so drop him a Facebook message or email to get involved. He’ll also be at the Perfect Friday Wine Tasting afternoon in Marlow on 10th October, if you wanted to have a chat before you sign up! [You can buy Oaken Grove Benham Blush here]
Last year, we were fed a well earned hog roast with all the trimmings, tasted newly released wines and got sent home with a bottle. A fabulous day to spend one of those last days of summer around Henley.
Dropmore Vineyard, Littleworth Common, Buckinghamshire, SL1 8NF
Perhaps Maidenhead’s closest vineyard, the Dropmore harvest is a real family affair. With just 3 acres of vines, this is as boutique as they come and the delicious Bacchus White and Pinot Blush have both won awards. Owned by John Petersen, drop him a line if you fancy lending a helping hand. Harvest starts on 11th October and will continue throughout October. Word on the street has it that Dropmore offer the best harvest catering going! [You can buy Dropmore Vineyard Bacchus here]
John will also be at the Perfect Friday Wine Tasting afternoon in Marlow on 10th October, so he can check you out before he lets you near the vines!
Bluebell Vineyard Estates, Furners Green, East Sussex, TN22 3RU
More of an experience than a horticultural work out, Bluebell are hosting a day in the vines on Saturday 17th October, 10-3pm. Spend the morning hand-harvesting grapes followed by a delicious lunch overlooking the vineyard, then a tutored tasting of their fabulous sparkling wines, made onsite, led by wine maker Kevin Sutherland. Also, taste the grape juice, fresh off the press (which, is sooooo tasty and described to me as ‘the nectar’ by one Saint-Chinian vineyard worker). [You can buy Bluebell Vineyard Estates Brut Rosé and Seyval Blanc here]
Call 01825 791561 or email wineinfo@bluebellvineyard.
If you’ve already chatted to me at a Perfect Friday Wine event, it’s likely that I’ve already bent your ear about just how wonderful English Wine is these days, and also likely that you’ve tried some of my award winning sparklers from Bluebell Vineyard Estates in East Sussex. Had I mentioned that their Brut Rosé has just won best sparkling rosé in the Judgement of Parsons Green competition against over 90 other English sparkling wines and came third overall? Well, now you know and if you haven’t already, you must try it – it’s glorious!
East Sussex is also home to some of the better known vineyards such as Ridgeview, Henners and much anticipated Rathfinny. The rest of the southern-most counties, are also home to the biggest and internationally recognised vineyards such as Camel Valley in Cornwall, Nyetimber in West Sussex, Chapel Down and Gusborne in Kent to name but a few. But you may be surprised to know that up here, nearby in the Chilterns, where the soil is still similar to that of Champagne, and the climate is still nice and warm (a degree up in the last decade), we have a whole plethora of local viti and viniculturists of our own, growing the same grape varieties and making wine in the same traditional method as Champagne.
As we approach English Wine Week (24-31 May 2014), allow me to introduce you to Maidenhead and Marlow’s own local vineyard scene, some of our closest vineyards and what they’re up to, in the hope that I can intrigue you enough to get a little bit interested in English wine, how it’s a growing player in our local produce scene and encourage you to get out there and taste it!
I can’t actually pin point the last year that I dined out on Valentine’s Day. I do recall a distant Valentine’s memory, once upon a time, of being squeezed into a restaurant, approximately 6 inches from the couple on the next table for a pretty ordinary set meal at a pretty extraordinary price. It felt forced, unromantic and a rip-off, resulting in my vow to never ever eat out on Valentine’s night again.
That’s not to say that Valentine’s Day goes unnoticed in our household. It’s actually a good excuse to close the laptop, leave the TV off and have a date-night in, with a decent bottle of wine or two and a meal to match. Back in the old days, before life got that little bit more hectic, these evenings weren’t so few and far between, we certainly didn’t need a prompt such as Valentine’s Day for us to actually sit down at the table, eat together and have a real conversation.
We’re now almost dependent on occasions such as Valentine’s, anniversarys, and birthdays to remind us that romance isn’t dead but are total creatures of habit in that whenever we do have a date night, in comes the ribeye steak and big red wine. We go wild where the starter and pudding are concerned and vary these according to our mood. This Valentine’s however, (look away now Husband) we’ll be having smoked salmon of some description to start and most likely cheesecake, inspired by one of my ex-rowing friends who’s in the midst of a cheesecake baking frenzy, to finish after our steak. So my own Valentine’s wine-inspired date-night in is going to look a little something like this, with no need to stray from my own PFW wine list: Continue reading “Valentine’s Dinner Wine Matching”
As I have declared many times before, I’m a big advocator of English Wine (the link will take you to much of my chatter around the subject). I have therefore been extremely excited to have been able to get in on the act and add 2 award-winning examples of English Sparkling Wine to the PFW portfolio; Bluebell Vineyard Estates Hindleap Seyval Blanc (white) and their Brut Rosé (pink, obviously).
Boy, have I been busy this fortnight. I’ve had a big project go-live in the day job, been given new projects to replace the old and hit some exciting milestones wine-wise, one of which being the new hosting-site for my blog. Although I’ll still be ‘reading and following’ on wordpress.com, I’m now fully functional over on wordpress.org thanks to a patient and clever friend who’s much less technically challenged than myself. So I’d just like to apologise first to my loyal and kind wordpress.com followers for lack of warning that I was moving. Yes, I did post a ‘please follow me over –>here<— at perfectfridaywine.com’ post, but only into ‘Drafts’, so was obviously no good! So here’s my plea:
If you’ve enjoyed reading about my capers in wine over the past year, I really appreciate all the support and encouragement that each and every one of you has given me, so please, please continue to follow me –>here<— at perfectfridaywine.com. I promise to keep my tales fresh, relevant and as frequent as possible. I suspect that you might not need to do anything at all and if this is the case, please do me a favour and like or comment on this post (my first since the blog relocated) so that I know that I don’t need to email you all to beg for refollowage.
So there you go 🙂
On to other news, another more interesting milestone, or perhaps ‘announcement’, is that on the run up to Christmas, I’m dipping my toe into the wine trade. More to come later on this, but in preparation, I’ve held 3 tastings at my house over the past 2 weeks. One sparkling, one white, one red, so if you’re reading this, thanks to all my Perfect Friday Wine helpers for your feedback and enthusiasm. Be grateful I didn’t fancy branching out into selling carpets or house insurance 😉
So, to share the stars of the tastings (and of course, I didn’t take any photos of the wines);
– White: for me, it had to be the beautiful Domaine de la Creuze Noire Saint-Véran 2011. A fabulously elegant well-priced Burgundian Chardonnay, I’m excited about trying this again.
Watch this space, and thanks for reading!
Please visit the Coming Soon Page for more detail on the wines and events.
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 . Continue reading “Nyetimber and The Vineyard at Stockcross”
It would be an understatement for me to say that I like Henley Regatta. I love Henley Regatta, even more so when the sun is shining. I have a lot of great memories from over the years, from the times I’ve camped with good friends, having left work in time to pitch up and catch the last couple of races over a Pimms or two, to the few times I’ve been lucky enough to get my hands on a pass to Stewards’ Enclosure. I also rowed myself for a few years at Maidenhead, so not only can I appreciate a nice stroke action, the stress of a racing start and the pain of a 40 strokes per minute rating, I’ve also been part of the rowing community so tend to know a few friendly faces around and about. All in all it’s a brilliant few days and if you like sitting by the river with a drink, people watching, I can imagine you’d enjoy it too.