Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Love Wine Fest - Birmingham

Saturday was the second weekend of our wine November, yes really we have a wine event on every weekend this month; there's a few in December too.

Last weekend we had a wine tasting for just four of us at Majestic Cardiff Bay when we visited our daughter; this weekend, along with four friends, Hubby and I caught the train to Birmingham for Love Wine Fest at the Burlington Hotel.

As with all wine events it is important to plan ahead ..... transport yes, and if needed accommodation, but the most important element ..... food, it's not advisable to go to a wine tasting with an empty tum!

Arriving in New Street we made our way to The Shakepeare, a Nicholson's pub that serves breakfast. It seemed the football fans had the same idea,  we all enjoyed a full English although instead of coffee their breakfasts were accompanied with beer!

The Macdonald Burlington Hotel is ideally situated in the heart of Birmingham, entering through the Burlington Arcade we waited for the lift. To my surprise and delight when the lift doors opened there was Dennis from Georgian Wine Club with his boxes of wine. It was lovely to see him again although briefly; we had a much longer chat later in the day.

Love Wine Birmingham is one of my favourite wine events, the exhibitors are a mixture of big names and smaller businesses and the venue is superb. The room is spacious, with stands around the sides and in the centre with plenty of room to stand and chat with exhibitors and visitors. This year's exhibitors were:

Amanda's Loire Valley Wines    Joie de Vin    Somerset Charcuterie

Our first visit was to Majestic Wine which may seem strange as we only visited them last week but as it was our friend's first wine event we thought we'd started with familiar wines .... however ..... a new wine stood proud alongside familiar favourites. Bread and Butter Chardonnay from California is full of just that; butter, brioche, crème brûlée.

With so many inviting exhibits we were spoilt for choice but as a follower of Paso-Primero on Twitter it was a pleasure to taste Thomas' wine especially his fortified Paso-Vermú with it's deep herbiness.

Hubby and I have been enjoying Cellier des Dauphins wine for many years when on holiday in France and their Les Dauphins wine here in the UK. With their vivid red stylish French labelling their stand looked very inviting with a range of wine including Blanc de Blanc, Cotes du Rhone and the superb Vinsorbes.
Photo credit @LesDauphins
Staying with France it was lovely to try some of Amanda's Loire Valley Wines, it was Richard from Cheshire Wine School hosting this stand. Sancerre, my favourite white, followed by Vouvray, moving onto Méthode Traditionelle Rouge, all just lovely. Great wines, perfect for Christmas, especially as suggested, the sparkling red with Christmas Cake!

Amanda's Loire Valley wines
Joie de Vin have wines from individual producers from all over France and have personally visited them all. Having tasted their wines at previous events I have to say they are superb quality. Hubby was very impressed with the Vieux Chateau Gachet Lalande de Pommerol. I was very impressed with Domaine de la Grange Chenonceaux when at Love Wine Guildford earlier this year, so much so this 100% sauvignon was my first purchase of the day!

A little bit of France chez moi.
Chenonceaux is my favourite Loire Chateau; its grand hall spans across the River Cher. Used as a hospital in WW2 the recovering soldiers were smuggled out of the Chateau on the south side into free France, the main part of the Chateau being on the occupied north bank. 

Chenonceaux Chateau - photo credit @MyLoireValley
Moving further into Europe we discovered more about Italian wines with R&D Selection. Focussing on the Puglia region, wines we both enjoy, the Massimo Falanghina white stood out for me whereas Hubby liked Taro Negroamaro and Enné Negroamaro. 
R & D Selection from Puglia
Arthouse Wines specialise in Italian boutique wine, their Etna Blanco being a 'heart wine - one favoured by the Love Wine Team. And I love it too, so much so it was my second purchase of the day. Another Sicilian wine Etna Rosato is a refreshing rosé wine made from 100% Nerello Mascalese. I quite liked Anglianco, an organic red wine and Preachers, a sparkling wine made from Chardonnay and Armies.

My own bottle of Etna Blanco at home
Meeting up again with Dennis and Berdia at Georgian Wine Club/Cenimex Ltd it was a delight to try their amazing wines from Georgia and Montenegro most of which are fermented in amphoras. The sweet Badagoni Khvanchkara was new to me; Dennis does it every time, bringing exciting wines with new aromas and flavours, so very different, all so lovely. I also enjoyed Lipovac Gea (Amphora) and Lipovac Tellus (Amphora) both from Montenegro.

There were far too many wines to mention them all but I must tell you about More Wine and Just Perfect Wine. It is always good to discover new ideas and More Wine have just that, a can of bubbles. Quelle is a Semi Sparkling Italian wine in a 200ml can, such a great idea and such a great wine. They also had a variety of wine in a box from France, Spain, Portugal and England.

Sparkling wine in a can
Just Perfect Wine specialise in Prosecco and sparkling wine and had six wines for tasting. It was surprising to learn how much the sugar levels vary in sparkling wine. My third and final wine purchase of the day was Ca'Salina Giorgia Spumante Brut which was full of apples, honey and brioche. Made from 100% Glera this wine has no added sulphites, the chemical linked to headaches. 

Just Perfect Wine 
Gin, whisky, meats, cheese, sweets, food platters, candles, even wooden tables made from crates - so much to discover. Wendy Narby was also at Love Wine signing her book The Drinking Women's Diet which of course was a must buy (I'm already hooked, great tips and advice). Hubby is keen to discover more about Bordeaux, an area of France we have yet to visit, so I also bought a copy of Bordeaux Bootcamp which Wendy kindly signed aswell.

Our signed copies of Wendy's books.
We had a great day with our friends, we also met up with one of Cuvée Reserve members (my online wine forum). It is always fun to rediscover wine favourites and to discover new wines, even more fun when shared with friends.

Thank you to everyone involved with this year's Love Wine Birmingham, it was lovely to meet Laura Clay, Heather Dougherty and Richard Bampfield again. I'm already looking forward to Love Wine Guildford - see you all there!

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Langham and Lyme Bay

Turning off the main road that runs between Dorchester and Blandford Forum we found ourselves driving down a small country lane, and small country lanes in England, especially with grass in the middle or high hedges usually means there will be something special at the end ..... and yes there was, Langham Wine Estate.

A rural setting of buildings, including an old intriguing barn with outdoor seating overlooking rows of vines, greeted us as we reached the end of the lane, it all looked so inviting.

Family owned since 1980 it was Justin Langham in 2009 that increased the vineyard to become a commercial wine grower. The soil and land is very similar to that of the Champagne region with gentle slopes providing the maximum amount of sunlight. Langham Wine Estate grow Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay from which they produce superb English sparkling wine.

Classic Cuvée 2014 
made from all three grapes

Blanc de Blanc 2014 
which is 100% Chardonnay

Rosé NV
made from Pinot Noir

Blanc de Noirs 2013
58% Pinot Noir and 42% Pinot Meunier and aged on lees for 40 months

I discovered Blanc de Noirs on our recent trip to the Champagne Region, the chance to try an English Blanc de Noirs could not be missed. Such a lovely colour in the glass, so elegant with a continuous stream on tiny bubbles rushing upwards. An inviting nose led to a mouth of buttery nuttiness that had a soft yet long lasting finish. A glass of bubbly that I wanted to last forever .... and so of course a bottle has come home.

Blanc de Noirs 2013
As it was a lunchtime visit we decided to stay for some food. Langham offer plenty of choice, all freshly made to order and can be enjoyed either in the barn or outdoors with the vines.  Our lunch was served at old oak tables with church pews and oak chairs for seating. It was the perfect atmosphere to enjoy great food accompanied by a superb glass of English Sparkling Wine .... a real pleasure.
Butternut Squash soup served with cheese and grapes

Winemaker's Lunch 
Langham Wine Estate do offer tours, either guided or by yourself, with tastings. The grapes had been picked just days before our visit so we appreciated the vines without walking the fields. It was such a peaceful setting, lovely food and as I have said superb wine, thank you Langham.

Langham Wine Estate 
Further west along the south coast, just over the border into Devon, is Lyme Bay Winery. I have known about this winery since I was a young girl as they had a small shop in Lulworth Cove which we visited each holiday. However I had never been to the winery itself.

We managed to find Lyme Bay Winery, down the obligatory small English lane, after our sat nav had us going in circles to find (it is actually just off a main road). A wood cladded building with an old weighing machinery outside had a welcoming feel which was echoed by the array of produce once inside.

I remember Lyme Bay wine being fruit flavoured and was delighted to see a full range of English Fruit and Country Wine: cherry, blackcurrant, apricot, ginger, Christmas pudding, cowslip and damson to name but a few. These fruit wines are also available as Sparkling Wines and Liqueurs.

Lyme Bay also produce wine from a variety of grapes, their wines are:

Shoreline        Bacchus Block     Sandbar      Pinot Noir       Pinot Noir Rosé     Chardonnay 

Of all the grapes grown here in the UK for wine making my favourite is Bacchus and Sandbar is made from 100% Bacchus; no need to ask,  of course a bottle came home with us.

Lyme Bay Winery also produce English Sparkling Wine and I was delighted to discover that their Sparkling Rosé 2014 has been shortlisted in the People's Choice Wine Awards.

Their other sparkling wines are:

Blanc de Noirs     Classic Cuvée      Brut Reserve Sparkling  

I was delighted to have beenva judge at the People's Choice Wine Awards  although I didn't judge Fabulous Fizz: Best Sparkling Wine UK in Round 1. However I did in Round 2 but as all bottles were wrapped to hide their labeling we had no idea which wine we were tasting.

I'm so pleased Lyme Bay have been chosen on the shortlist, the winners will be announced at The Comedy Store in Manchester on 25th February 2019.

Julia, Just Perfect Wines, was also a judge for the People's Choice Wine Awards and you can purchase Lyme Bay's Sparkling Rosé from her online shop - Just Perfect Wines will also be at Love Wine Fest in Birmingham on 10th November at the Burlington Hotel.

Our Dorset and Devon wine visits were both superb, thank you Langham Wine Estate and Lyme Bay Winery.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

The Shortlist - People's Choice Wine Awards

It's today - finally - it's today. - whoo hoo ! 

The shortlisted wines for the People's Choice Wine Awards have been announced. What awards?

Well if you have to ask you must be a new visitor to Aimetu's - hello - and not (yet) a follower on Twitter or Instagram ..... because I have not stopped posting about this since taking part in early October.

I was delighted (shocked but delighted) to be chosen to be a judge in Round 1 of the People's Choice Wine Awards and to my utter surprise I was selected as a Supertaster and asked to judge Round 2 too!

Round 2 Judges
All the excitement and details of both days can be found here in my People's Choice Wine Awards blog post.

So today, with great excitement, the shortlisted wine's in each category have been announced ..... and here they are:

Out of the Ordinary
  • South East Wineries Ltd: Sedlescombe Rosé Brut
  • Waitrose: Villa Blanche Terret Blanc
  • BIB Wine: Weingut Sraka Blaufrankisch
  • Concho y Toro: 1000 Stories Bourbon Barrel Fermented Zinfandel
Boxing Clever
  • Off-Piste Wines: Most Wanted Sauvignon Blanc Bag in Box
  • The Wine Society: Domaine Jaume Cotés-du-Rhone
  • Concho y Toro: Isla Negra Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz
War of the Roses
  • Invivo Wines: Graham Norton's Own Pink by DesiGN Rosé
  • BIB Wine: Domaine of the Bee 'Bee Pink'
  • Rude Wines: Domaine de Pellehaut Family Reserve Rosé
  • Concho y Toro; Adorada
Fabulous Fizz - Best Champagne
  • Asda: Asda Extra Special Louis Bernard Vintage Champagne
  • Champagne Jacques Chaput: Jacques Chaput Blanc-de-Noirs
  • The Wine Society: The Society's Champagne Brut NV
Fabulous Fizz - Best Sparkling Wine (Rest of the World)
  • Louis Latour: Cremant de Bourgogne Brut
  • Rude Wines: Rude Prosecco Brut DOC
  • Seckford Agencies: Bird in Hand Sparkling Pinot Noir
One Man and his BBQ
  • Domaine of the Bees: Grenashista
  • Wakefield/Taylors: St Andrew's Shiraz
  • Wakefield/Taylors: Jaraman Shiraz
  • The Wine Society: The Society's Exhibition Pinotage, Stellenbosch
Party Central
  • Off-Piste Wines: Most Wanted Pinot Grigio Pink Fizz (cans)
  • Treasury Wine Estates: 19 Crimes Red Blend
  • Rude Wines: Escada Touriga Nacional
Food Friendly Wines - Red for Light Meals
  • Wakefield/Taylors: Promised Land Shiraz
  • Rude Wines: Albert Bichot Coteaux Bourguignons
  • The Wine Society: The Society's Beaujolais-Villages 
Pizza Night
  • Asda: Asda Extra Special Primitivo
  • Cellier des Dauphins: Les Dauphins Cotes du Rhone Reserve Red
  • The Wine Society: The Society's Barbera d'Asti Superiore
Girls Night In
  • Invivo Wines: Graham Norton's own SauviGNon Blanc
  • Iceland: Chateau de Champteloup, Brut
  • Fitz Wine: FITZ
  • Treasury Wine Estates: Blossom Hill, Pale Rosé
Fabulous Fizz - Best Sparkling Wine (UK)
  • Waitrose: Leckford Estate Brut
  • The Wine Society: The Society's Exhibition English Sparkling Wine
  • Lyme Bay Winery: Lyme Bay Winery Sparkling Rosé
Heavy Duty
  • The Wine Society: Blind Spot Rutherglen Muscat
  • Raymond Reynolds: Vinhos Barbeito-Malvasia 5yr old Reserva Maderia
  • Raymond Reynolds: Sivipa-Moscatel de Setubal
Food Friendly Wines - Red for Easy Weekday Meals
  • Iceland: Rabo de Gallo
  • Ian Botham Wines: The Botham All Rounder Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Treasury Wine Estates: Lindeman's Bin 50 Shiraz 
Bargain Buys
  • Concho y Toro: Isla Negra Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Concho y Toro: Vina Maipa Merlot
  • The Wine Society: Vina Santico Carmenére
Food Friendly Wines - Red for Hearty Meals
  • Berkmann: Masi Campofiorin
  • Asda: Orbitali Amarone Della Valpolicella
  • The Wine Society: The Society's Exhibition Rioja Reserva
  • Seckford Agencies: The Boxer Shiraz 
Food Friendly Wines - White for Lighter Meals
  • Invivo Wines: Invivo Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
  • Iceland: Doubtful Sound Sauvignon Blanc
  • Seckford Agency: The Edge Pinot Gris
  • Benchmark Drinks, Botham Wines: The All Rounder Chardonnay
Sweets for My Sweet
  • Gem Wines: Eleganza
  • Seckford Agencies: Stanley Noble Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc
  • The Wine Society: The Society's Exhibition Sauternes
Food Friendly Wines - White for Aromatic & Asian Meals
  • The Wine Society: The Society's Exhibition Alsace Gewurztraminer
  • Aldi: Exquisite Collection Clare Valley Riesling
  • Cono Sur Wines: Cono Sur Bicicleta Gewurztraminer
  • Taylors Wines: St Andrew's Chardonnay
Food Friendly Wines - White for Light Meals with Sauces
  • Rude Wines: Michel Fonné Riesling Tradition
  • Concho y Toro: Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier
  • Treasury Wine Estates: Wolf Blass Yellow Label Chardonnay
Blow Out!
  • Il Colle Srl Azienda Vitivinicola: Colle Baio
  • Berkmann Wines: Famille Brocard Chablis
  • Treasury Wines: Wolf Blass Gold Label Riesling
  • Taylors WInes: The Pioneer Shiraz
  • The Wine Society: Exhibition Barolo

Huge congratulations to all the shortlisted wines that were submitted by high street supermarkets, independent wine shops, importers, suppliers and producers. There are many on the list I have enjoyed in the past and a few I have already chosen for our next Wine Tasting Night at our Scout Group.

I'm sure all the Round 1 and Round 2 judges will be as excited as me to finally see which wines we were tasting and chose as the finalists, no labels were seen during the two days, it was all very intriguing. 

It was lovely to meet everyone, many thanks to Janet Harrison. Hopefully we will meet again at the Award's Night at The Comedy Store in Manchester on 25th February 2019. 

Artwork by Tony Husband

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Three great National Trust houses

On our way to our alternative holiday (our river cruise was cancelled due to unusually low water levels on the Danube) we called in at the first of three large National Trust houses we visited whilst away.

Stourhead, in Wiltshire, is a Palladian villa built in the 1700s and owned by the Hoare family until 1946 when after losing their only son in WWII Sir Henry and Lady Alda Hoare gifted the villa and it's beautiful grounds to the National Trust.

It was Henry and Alda who were responsible for restoring the villa as previous generation had suffered financial difficulties during the agricultural decline and the house had been shut up. Sir Henry and Lady Alda lived in the small cottage whilst the house was being restored.

The Gateway adorned in autumn colours
There were so many grand rooms full of beautiful paintings and great pieces of furniture. I'm always very taken with inlaid work, carpets and intricate designs on wallpapers or hangings. It must be my arty side that draws me to them.

This was stunning, my photo does not
do it justice really
Such detail, amazing craftsmanship
Each room was full of great paintings, furniture and ceramics
Stourhead is also famous for its grounds with undulating paths through woodland, lakeside walks and a collection of statues, temples and follies.

Beautiful grounds especially with autumnal colours
It was quite a long walk round the lake and with the paths meandering up and down the hills it was too far for me so we only had a small stroll. However I did catch a glimpse of the Pantheon through the trees.
The Pantheon 
It was a beautiful place to visit, I can imagine Stourhead looks wonderful any time of year but I especially enjoyed the red, oranges, yellows, browns and greens of autumn.
Pumpkins in the garden greenhouse 
Whilst on holiday we visited Kingston Lacy, a large country house built in 1660s. John and Mary Bankes owned much of Dorset and lived at Corfe Castle (you can read about our visit here in a later post). The castle was destroyed during the English Civil War, John was killed and Mary fought for her castle and land. It was their son Ralph that built the house and generations since have filled it with treasures: famous paintings, Chippendake furniture and the keys for Corfe Castle.

John Bankes
Mary Bankes holding the key to Corfe Castle 
The rooms were filled with so famous paintings by Rubens, Van Dyke and Titian to name just three. Huge beautiful paintings, kept in low lighted rooms, that came to life as the Guides shone their torches on the detail.

Amazing detailed art - original Rubens'
Three eldest children of Charles I - copy of a Van Dyke
The painting came to life under the Guide's torchlight
One room in the house was dedicated to Egyptian times, full of relics collected by William Bankes during his Egypt tour in 1818. The intricate work and hieroglyphics were amazing, especially when you think how old they are ..... but for me they belong in their own country rather than as treasures in an English house.
Egyptian treasure
High in the attic space were two rooms decorated like tents in the Napoleonic War. It s said they were designed for the Duke of Wellington to remind him of the battle, not sure that was a memory he wanted on his many visits to this great house.
Tent bedroom 
Walking around it felt so homely in this house, mainly because the furniture all belonged there. It wasn't a house made to look like it's age it really was exactly as it had been lived in. I especially liked Henrietta's bedroom, very much like today's popular floral designs.
Henrietta's Bedroom 
The third house we visited was on our way home, Lacock Abbey. A real mixture of a building that has been used for many things, including a film set for Harry Potter and Pride & Prejudice.

Lacock Gateway 
The Cloisters corridor - Harry Potter was filmed here
Outer barn
The Cloisters and outer rooms are superb examples of medieval architecture and date from 1232, although some were demolished and replaced in 1400s.

In Tudor times, when monasteries were dissolved, the building was turned into a Country House with a large estate including Lacock Village. Italian design was popular at this time which accounts for the addition of the octagonal tower.

Beautiful architecture 
The entrance and Great Hall are the final parts of the tour. The hall takes your breathe away, not because of its opulent furnishings or paintings as it doesn't have any .....its huge walls are filled with Gothic statues. A very different style to the rest of the house and dates back to the 1700s. I love the story of the goat and his sugar cube.

Stunning Great Hall Gothic statues

As well as the Abbey there is also the Fox Talbot Museum, although we did not visit due to time. William Henry Fox Talbot was the first to create an image on a photographic negative. He captured an image of one of the windows in the South Gallery, unfortunately he did not realise how important his discovery was and did not patent the idea so made no money from his discovery.
The first camera 
It is an expensive business being responsible for the upkeep of the House, Estate and Village and when Matilda Talbot unexpectedly inherited it in 1916 she had to sell some of the treasures to improve the tenants village homes. She gave Lacock to the National Trust in 1944.
Lacock Abbey
Three great houses, all very different, all full of history and interesting details. We are really enjoying being members of the National Trust and whilst on holiday visited a few other smaller properties which I'll be blogging later.

I'll finish this post with my favourite photo of all our National Trust visits  - Hubby and I silhouetted in the Cloisters at Lacock Abbey