Yesterday the England football team kicked off their Euro 2012 Championships campaign. Their first match ended in a 1-1 against the old enemy, the French. Last week witnessed all the pomp and ceremony of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The whole nation was pretty much dressed in Union Jack flags and bunting, whilst we got stuck into the once in a lifetime celebrations. The bubbly was certainly flowing. Moreover, last week was also a great excuse to enjoy some top-notch English wines during English Wine Week. Vineyards such as Nyetimber, Chapel Down, Hush Heath Estate, Ridgeview, Camel Valley, amongst others are currently leading the way. In addition, owing to the fact that they are now winning many accolades and awards, I reckon the French, (always considered old rivals, not only in sport, but now with sparkling wines) have much to be concerned about. One Champagne house even decorated its bottles in a Union Jack. Has the world gone “Britpop” crazy!
Last week was also Welsh Wine Week. However, in my opinion it got completely overshadowed possibly because of our fervent enthusiasm and nationalistic pride for English produce, English wines and all things English. Wales does happen to be part of our great British nation and its people are responsible for some our country’s finest regional produce. Whereas the previously-mentioned English vineyards are leading the pack and many others are now following positively in their commercial success and recognition, there only appears to be one ‘champion’ Welsh vineyard. This is Ancre Hill, located in Monmouth, which has only recently gained any sort of recognition for its excellent quality wines. If you get the opportunity to try them, please do, as they really deserve to be discovered. In addition, I didn’t actually realise how many vineyards there were in Wales. I had heard of Ancre Hill before, but I actually thought there were another half a dozen or so others. There are in fact 20 vineyards in Wales – all of them producing interesting wines. It’s just up to you to actively pursue them and make an effort to discover them.
On Friday afternoon, last week during the combined English and Welsh Wine Week, I popped along to the John Lewis Foodhall on bustling Oxford Street in London. Downstairs, I discovered a busy foodie haven of interesting beverages (part of the Waitrose selection) and delicious artisan cheeses and other foodstuffs. To celebrate Welsh Wine Week they laid on a relaxed and informal tasting of some Welsh wines matched with Welsh cheeses, hosted by local wine expert Colin Pressdee.
Here’s what we tasted:
Glyndwr Sparkling Rose (Vale of Glamorgan) - a light, subtle rose, petal pink – nice persistent mousse. Yeasty, clean, delicate nose. Light and crisp on palate, displaying dry orchard fruit. Bone dry on finish. Good aperitif wine. Blend of Triomphe d’Alsace, Madeleine Angevine and Seyval Blanc grapes.
Glyndwr White (Vale of Glamorgan) – pale straw colour with fresh spring flowers on nose. Floral and herbaceous with a long savoury finish. Great mouth-watering acidity and partnered cheeses very well. Blend of Seyval Blanc and Madeleine Angevine grapes.
Monnow Valley – medium dry white – rich, fruity, off-dry with aromatic fragrance. Owing to the vineyards being located further inland in Monmouth (Monnow Valley has a warmer, drier microclimate) the wine displayed riper fruit characters and more richness and depth on palate. Blend of Seyval Blanc and Madeleine Angevine grapes. Went really well with cheeses.
Glyndwr Red (Vale of Glamorgan) – produced from the early-ripening Rondo grape, this red wine is full-coloured and fragrant. It displays a charming, rustic character of berry fruits and savoury nuances. Similar to a Beaujolais. Worked well with the Hafod Cheddar cheese.
Welsh cheeses tasted: Gorwydd Caerphilly produced at the Trethowan’s Dairy in Ceredigion; Perl Wen (Brie-style cheese), Caws Cenarth, Camarthenshire and Hafod Cheddar produced at Hafod Farm in Ceredigion.
All cheeses are available at John Lewis Foodhall and in Waitrose outlets. In my opinion, they are pretty much leading the way with top-notch food and an excellent range of English and Welsh wines. There is also a list of all 20 Welsh vineyards and some useful information about Welsh wines and regional produce here.
Many thanks to all concerned. It certainly gave me an opportunity to learn something new and never to underestimate the Welsh.
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The epicurean odyssey continues…