Tag Archives: event

Brancott Estate: Kiwi Finest

24 Mar

Brancott Estate Chosen Rows

When I first started drinking wine around the age of 19, I remember falling for those outside of the “norm” (ie: the old world) and heading straight to “New World wines”.

The first country to interest me was Australia and I recall a fine Shiraz Grenache that I drank on many an evening, which was appealing for both its richness from the Shiraz and the sweeter notes the Grenache grape provided.

Years later (and after a move to the UK from Canada) my palate has changed and so has my exposure to wine. Living over here I tend to now drink a lot of French and Italian wine, simply because of its availability in UK supermarkets (and due to trips to the continent from which the boy and I return with copious amounts of vino to stock our cupboards with).

But one wine-producing country I am still not that familiar with is New Zealand. I’m confident I’ve had a few bottles from there over the years but none has stood out enough to impress. Still, it has been a country I’ve been interested in for a while not least because a very close friend of the boy and I moved out there about 18 months ago and her comments on the country and all its goodness raise our jealousy levels constantly.

So, it was with a pre-built-in interest that I recently attended a wine lunch with Brancott Estate – a Marlborough based winery that has been in existence since the late 1970s. Up until recently, it was called Montana Wines, which may be more recognisable for those of you who are already familiar with Kiwi wines. The company decided to re-brand after it upped its exports to the US because it didn’t want people thinking that Montana Wine came from the state of Montana. The company is now called Brancott after the first estate that was planted by the Croatian family who started the vineyard nearly four decades ago.

Brancott Estate 3

At the lunch at airy and beautiful Clerkenwell restaurant The Modern Pantry, I joined other food writers and chief winemaker Patrick Materman, who has been with the company for 23 years. Materman studied horticulture and was originally intending to grow flowers but realised it would be more interesting to grow grapes and make wine instead. Logical, indeed, I thought.

The lunch was put on to launch the company’s latest special release: a 2010 Chosen Rows Sauvignon Blanc that has been made using hand-harvested grapes, wild fermentation and large format oak vats (from four to ten thousand litres) which Materman said creates “a savoury complexity rather than more toasted oak flavours; it is perhaps a bit more thought-provoking.”

As background, Materman told us the company’s founders planted the first Sauvignon Blanc grapes in New Zealand, which are now a part of the 33 thousand hectares of vineyards in the country. The grape is the company’s main focus with Pinot Noir coming in second.

Brancott Estate 2Before we tried the newest release, there was a sample of a sparkling Sauvignon Blanc Brut to come first. I enjoyed this as it was bursting with sharply acidic tropical fruit (pineapple, lemon, lime, clementime) with a slight soda dryness right at end that kept it from being overwhelmingly fruity. It was refreshing and sprightly.

Next up was the new release, which is available on a limited edition basis for around £35. This turned out to be my favourite of the day, but at the price tag won’t be one I’ll be purchasing regularly. Still, if you see it about and fancy trying a lovely example of a New Zealand wine, I highly recommend it. It had a lovely contrast between the flavours throughout the sip, starting with sweeter citrus notes (I thought of pink grapefruit with sugar sprinkled on top) and moving to an earthier heavy mouthfeel filled with grassy and mushroom notes, and finishing on a note of red apple peel. It had weight, intrigue and richness – all things I enjoy in a wine.

The project that saw the development of the wine was, said Materman, “less about commercial viability and more about what we’ve learned from this project.”

The lunch continued with a gorgeous, crunchy bit of sea bass on candied beetroot with pink peppercorns that paired wonderfully with the company’s Letter B series wine – also a Sauvignon Blanc. This was followed by a meaty bit of pork belly, with roasted potatoes and a delectable fig and red onion relish that I enjoyed thoroughly with the delicate blackcurrent back-boned Pinot Noir Terraces ‘T’ wine (my second favourite of the day).

What I found most interesting was the fact that Materman admitted New Zealand wines will never be massive in their reach (simply because the country is running out of spaces to grow grapes on) but that it means many producers can be slightly more creative and pay more attention to their vines. The entirety of New Zealand’s wine region is around the same size as Champagne and putting it in that perspective made me realise why I may not have tried the offerings so often.

But, tasting the complex, intriguing and thoroughly delicious wines (especially the Chosen Rows and Pinor Noir bottles) made me want to search for the pleasure of this wine region again in the near future. Or, travel to New Zealand to taste it in the flesh, something that is also now even more firmly on the ‘to-do’ list!

Advertisements

2012? When did that happen?

3 Jan

When I was a kid, any date after 2010 seemed an impossibility. I remember very clearly, sitting at home in a philosophical haze (as much as my 10-year-old self could handle) trying to envision the thought that by 2010, I would be 25. TWENTY-FIVE YEARS old! To my brain, that seemed an eternity away.

And yet, I couldn’t wait. Having a sister 11 years older than you, tends to make you want to be a grown-up much quicker – she was already off to university, living away from home, getting to “play house” as I called it.

So, now here we are in 2012. And all I can think is, “When did that happen?”

But, happen it did. And moving into a new year always makes me reflect on the year that was.

So, what was 2011?

Well…2011 was the year I started this site with a post on the food I savoured in Montenegro.

Hot air balloons drift in front of ours in the Napa Valley

It was the year I discovered fantastic wine in the Napa Valley and went hot air ballooning over the vineyards; worked on an organic farm; and, volunteered to take care of turtles in Costa Rica before returning to London to a new home with “the boy” and a new life writing about food, drink and travel.

A little girl runs after friends in the small village of Parismina, Costa Rica

It was the year I discovered my great weakness for whisky and created a site to encourage more young/female/people (!) to drink it, while also trying some fantastic tipples such as absinthe, tequila and cognac (the latter while sitting in a window at Harrods) through my work with Fluid London.

Glasses of Martell Cognac sit on the table in the window at Harrods

It was also the year I and the boy found out how absolutely, divinely incredible Ireland was with a series of posts (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3) on our journey up the west coast.

The boy stands near yet another beautiful vista in Ireland

And, finally, it was the year I finished off by tasting some great mince pies for a worthy cause, going off the beaten path of food and drink writing, by thanking many supporters who donated to a fantastic charity night I helped organise with Marie Curie, learning about soup making with Nusa Kitchen and writing about some lovely wines I tried at a Virgin Wines event.

Me, looking incredibly cool, making soup at Nusa Kitchen.

All in all, very pleasurable indeed – and I have to say, far from what my 10-year-old self necessarily envisioned for my 26-year-old self.

And so, I say thank you to the people who have taken a spare few minutes to read my ramblings, and to wish you all the very best for 2012 – it’s the year of the Olympics, the year of the Jubilee, and the year of…well…we shall just have to see. I hope to continue celebrating London’s great food & drink, and maybe do some further exploring afield. And I hope for many pleasurable things all around for all of you (and your ten-year-old selves!)

Magnificent Marie Curie Event

21 Nov

As you all know, I’m a big fan of anything a little bit indulgent.

But, it is as true that not all in life is or should be just about pleasure!

So, when I’m not eating or drinking my way through London’s fantastic restaurants and bars, I spend time volunteering with the rather magnificent Marie Curie Cancer Care

It all started with a rather funny hat I wore last year – I had so much fun wearing the charity’s silly dafodil hat for its dafodil day (where I paraded outside of Camden Tube trying to sell as many dafodil pins as poss) that I decided I wanted to do more. So, when the call came for a new group to start in Camden at the same time I returned from my travels, I signed right up.

And a couple of weeks later, the Camden fundraising branch for Marie Curie was born. We’re a fun-loving group, and our aim is to get as many funds as possible for the incredible work the hospice does. And what, you ask, does the hospice do?

Well…each year, 2,000 palliative care nurses provide vital in-home and at-hospice care for those people in the final stages of cancer. For FREE! All 1.2 MILLION hours of care (the amount of work done in the last year’s count). No patient ever pays for this incredible care, which allows people to stay in a more peaceful space during their final hours. The charity also does huge amounts of research into tackling this disease AND provides care and counselling for families affected by it. In short, it’s incredible.

But – and there’s always a but – it costs a massive £13,000 a DAY to run these services. Only 53% of that cost is covered by primary trusts, and with government cut backs, that will likely change. The rest of it is funded through donations.

So, our fundraising group is here to do the little bit it can to help make sure these life-changing services continue on. We all know someone who has been affected by cancer. For me, it was my mum. It was a horrible time in my life and I wish I would have had access to the incredible support of Marie Curie (given I didn’t live in this country then, I couldn’t). But, now that I do live here, I’m proud to help make sure that other kids out there get some support if they do go through something like losing a family member at a young age. It’s the least I can do.

But, this post is not just about telling you about this work or the hospice. It’s about also telling you about our hugely exciting fundraising event, happening in less than two weeks time!

The event takes place on Saturday, 3 December at the fabulous Fiddler’s Elbow music venue near Chalk Farm – the place is perfect for what we have planned and, given it recently won an award for being a top music venue in Camden, we’re really rather chuffed to get it!

The flyer for our big event!

Our night will include some fantastic up and coming London bands, including Jamie Gordon , Holly Walker, Kings of the City, and one other very exciting band which I am forbidden from revealing, so we’re just calling them our “Special Guests” but I will say, they are a great London band with a big following and certainly set to make some music waves in the coming months. The night will be hosted by Josh Lever and the fab Jacky Wood will be making us all laugh.

We’ll also be doing a load of other exciting things, like having a super cool facepainter (a professional, mind – no little-kid balloon drawings here!), a dress-up photo booth, and a big raffle which we have been getting some supremo donations for, including: a Kenwood food processor from Robert Dyas; bottles of wine from Virgin Wines; high-end absinthe from La Clandestine; tickets to a whisky tasting with Dramatic Whisky; a £100 voucher from Camden Mirrors; a £35 voucher from Rum & Sugar Bar in the Docklands; and, many more things to come!! So stay tuned!

If you want more info about the event, then head to our Facebook page here.

And, if you can’t make it, but would like to send over some funds, then you most certainly can at our newly set up Just Giving page here.

We do hope to get a sold-out crowd on the night so if you are free on the 3 December then definitely come on down. Tickets are only £5 on the door but all other donations are, of course, more than welcome.

All in all, I’d say it might not be what I normally write about, but our event and all the work that Marie Curie Cancer Care do, makes me rather happy inside…and that, my friends, is very pleasurable indeed.

Feeling Frisky for Whisky

4 Oct

As many dear readers may know, I rather looooove whisky. So, it is with great eagerness that I have been preparing my liver for the rather exciting TWE Whisky Show, happening this weekend in London – I even went to a bar last night and drank only tomato juice! Not a hint of bloody mary mix or vodka in sight. Shocking, I know!

The Whisky Show is set to bring more than 40 exhibitors to Vinopolis, near Borough Market, on Friday and Saturday. Although, for you unlucky souls without a ticket yet, Saturday is not an option as it’s already completely sold out!

Billy Abbott, who works with The Whisky Exchange – the fantastic online retailer of whisky, cognac and other fine spirits putting the event on – told me recently this show is not only for those already educated in whisky.

“The intention is to create a show that will appeal to almost everyone, with education at its core. The exhibitors on the stands are just as happy to talk general whisky appreciation as they are whisky geekery and combined with our food pairing, an area where most visitors won’t have much expertise, and cocktail bars we’re hoping that there will be something for everyone,” he explained.

Attendees will not only get access to more than 200 (! – did you just hear me giggle in joy?) whiskies, but also get to choose two “dream drams” from a range of 30. This, too, is different from previous years and Abbot says he hopes guests will be impressed.

“Previously guests have had one token that they could exchange for a dram of a super premium whisky, whereas this year we are giving everyone two. In addition we’re making things a bit more fine-grained with whiskies up to £1000 a bottle costing 1 token, £1000-£2000 2 tokens and over £2000 3 tokens. We’re also allowing people to buy extra tokens to give them the chance to try more of these impressive and in many cases exclusive whiskies,” he said.

For those whisky “geeks” heading to the show, there will no doubt be cries of joy when they realise those rare drams to hand will include a 1973, 30-year-old Midleton (bottled eight years ago, which sold out nearly on release) and a bottle of £3500 Drambuie Jacobite.

All in all, it sounds very impressive. And I can’t wait to get myself to the show on Friday and immerse myself in (vats? barrels? casks?) of whisky! As I’ve told my liver…this is all in the name of writing! And also in the name of indulging in Gwiltypleasures…bring it on!

Tickets cost £95 and include entry to the festival, all tastings, two “dream dram” tokens and a two-course meal at the show brasserie, with a menu designed by whisky and food writer Martine Nouet. For more information, visit: http://www.whisky-show.com

Winning Wine Fest

30 Sep

Despite the GORGEOUS (and strangely out-of-tune) summer-like weather we’re having in England right now, I am already looking forward to summer 2012. ‘Why?’ you might ask.

No, it’s not because of the Olympics – I’m still not relishing the idea of the onslaught of tourists that will take over Londontown during that time.

Actually, it’s for a rather juicy festival I’ve found out about, due to take place next year in Reading.

The Big Wine Festival is set to be the biggest event in England next year (bar the aforementioned Olympics) and is hoping to attract some 120,000 people to its massive pop-up village in Kings Meadow from the 7-10 June.

I went to the recent press launch at the sumptuous Benares in Berkeley Square to find out more and left full of wine, and full of excitement for this monstrous event.

Waiters mull in the background during the event to launch The Big Wine Festival at Benares in London

According to the lovely ladies from PR Company Cottrell and Klar, there will be wine from every wine-producing country represented at the event, along with food from their nations to go along with the tastings – two things that really get Gwiltypleasures going!

Not only that, but attendees will also have access to concerts, kids areas (as the organisers want to make this a family-friendly event) and loads of cultural activities from the various countries.

It looks like it will really put Britain’s food, wine and event-hosting on the map, and I’m glad to see something so major happening just in time to take advantage of what will hopefully be some summer sunshine.

More info on bands, events and wine exhibitors will be coming soon – it is, after all, still almost nine months away. But for now, Gwiltypleasures is blocking off a few days in her June 2012 calendar to be taken over with wine-tasting, lawn sprawling and concert listening…tres exciting!

Tickets for the festival will cost £37 for adults and be available in October from the website. More information on discounts and special offers will be available in the coming months.

%d bloggers like this: