English Wine Week

This is English Wine Week, the annual celebration of our local wine industry.  And this year, my birthday fell during the week so, of course, we celebrated with a glass of Furleigh Estate Classic cuvee at a restaurant at Beaminster, Dorset, just a few miles from the vineyard. 

Back in Bristol, the next day, we met with some good friends of ours and, again, out came the English fizz, this time from Hattingley Valley Estate in Hampshire.

But the main event of the week was an English Wine dinner at Harvey Nichols (HN) restaurant here in Bristol.  A chance to taste 4 more English wines and to see how they match with food.  The evening started with canapés accompanied by a glass of HN’s own label sparkler, a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with some of the characteristic creaminess from 3 years ageing.

The starter, soft shell crab, was accompanied by a vibrant mango, chilli and coriander salsa – perhaps not the easiest to match with a wine but the lively, crushed strawberry fruit of HN’s Cotswold Pinot Noir rosé managed admirably; the wine made for HN by the well-regarded Woodchester Valley vineyard near Stroud, Gloucestershire.

Historically, England has struggled to ripen grapes sufficiently for a red wine so finding a pairing for a main course of lamb might have proved challenging.  But not in one of the best English vintages of recent years, 2018, where Litmus estate’s Pinot Noir, grown in Kent, reached 13% alcohol and, after 19 months in oak, had the richness and savouriness to work ideally with the lamb.

Then it was back to fizz to end the meal – not just in the glass but in the dessert itself: an elegant raspberry jelly made with Nyetimber wine accompanied, of course, with the same producer’s demi-sec (medium-sweet) Cuvee Cherie. 

A very sweet dessert would have overpowered the delicate and not-too-sweet wine, but that didn’t happen here; the balance of weight and sweetness was just right and a lovely way to end the meal.

A busy week of tasting– and there’s still 2 days to go until the end of this year’s English Wine Week.

Advertisement

A Perfect Ending

“This rhubarb flan I’ve just made would go beautifully with a glass of sweet wine.  I don’t suppose we’ve got anything suitable?”  My wife had barely finished her question before I was heading towards our wine rack.

We often think of the different styles of dry wines pairing well with particular main course dishes – white Burgundy with chicken, perhaps, Rioja or Claret with lamb – but it is the same with sweet wines and desserts.  A delicate pudding would be overwhelmed by a powerful Australian ‘stickie’, yet that’s exactly the wine you would be thinking of to match a rich chocolate dessert or Christmas Pudding.

So, how did I choose a partner for our rhubarb flan?  Rhubarb can be quite acidic so we cooked it with some orange zest and juice to counter that and a little cinnamon for a soft, spicy flavour.  And those additions pointed me in a particular direction for the wine.  Flavours of orange or marmalade are often found in wines made with botrytised grapes.  (This happens when the grapes are left on the vine until they are attacked by the botrytis fungus which shrivels the berries and concentrates the sugars).  Thin skinned grapes (Semillon is a good example) grown in vineyards in humid areas are particularly prone to this – Sauternes in southern Bordeaux is probably the best known – but I opened a bottle from the Australian producer, De Bortoli, who also use the same grape variety.

Their ‘Florence Broadhurst’ Botrytis Semillon (Majestic, £9.99 for a half-bottle) is, as you can see, a wonderful deep gold colour with lovely honey, orange and spice flavours – just a perfect match for our rhubarb flan.  But, although the flavour is quite intense, this is not a heavy wine as, unlike many sweet wines, this has just 10% alcohol – an important consideration if you’ve already enjoyed a dry wine with your main course.

We love sweet wines and have always got a few bottles in stock for occasions such as this where a pudding is just crying out for a glass of something to end a lovely meal perfectly.