Take one Sunny, Summer’s Sunday morning. Add in a beautiful setting, the Hampshire Countryside at its best, butterflies fluttering through the vines, bees buzzing on the lavender plants and a sparkling white marquee. Stir in a judicious selection of wines and delicious local foods and you have Hambledon Wine Festival which took place this weekend! The oldest commercial vineyard in England, making wine since 1952, the estate has undergone a complete renaissance since Ian Kellett took over in 1999. On the chalky soils of the South Downs (like those of the Champagne region), Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier & Pinot Noir have been planted with great success. The vineyards lined with hay bales, with the notes of jazz floating on the air, invited you to share in this fabulous festival. The resident canine welcoming Committee, Beka (a beautiful Ridgeback), led visitors through into the marquee where an array of wines & foods awaiting to while away the Sunday in relaxing style in the Culture of Wine!
With around 80 wines to taste, where to start? Kicking off in style with the home team, Hambledon hosted by the welcoming polyglot, Phillip Kellett, their Classic Cuvée Rosé was all strawberries & cream in a glass and truly hit the spot as the opening wine! But their Premier Cuvée, a blend of the three main grape varieties that go into that other sparkling wine, Champagne aka Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier & Pinot Noir was delightful, slightly toasty and hazelnut notes with a long finish. Showcasing these superb sparkling wines showed just how quality has become the focus for English Sparkling Wines.
The oldest Wine Merchant in Britain, and holder of Two Royal warrants, Berry Bros & Rudd chose seven wines from their extensive listings. The delicate pale Provencal Rosé Chateau la Mascaronne suited the sunshine perfectly and would be delicious with a hot smoked salmon steak. Their Pouilly Fuissé from Olivier Merlin showed how well Chardonnay can give an elegant balance of richness & fresh minerality – perfect for a classic Sunday Roast Chicken! Amongst their excellent selection was their own label Bordeaux, sourced from Chateau du Tetre, which was textbook Margaux and a lovely Rioja from Amezola de la Mora, full of vanilla, red fruits and a spicy finish. But when the main Wine Man of the day, acting MC – Joe Wadsack – decides that he is willing to part with his own cash for a wine, you know it’s something notable. In this case, BBR’s own label Good Ordinary Claret. For a very good reason, as the advert used to say “it does what it says on the tin” and at a special show price of just £8.50 (and even at the regular price of £9.95) it is undoubtedly a bargain! Despite the main shop in London, BBR also have a warehouse shop near Basingstoke, which carries a wide range of discounted lines with up to 30% off, worth a visit!
The General Wine Company have two shops in Hampshire, Petersfield (ideally placed next to the station so perfect to drop in & pick up a bottle of something to revive you after the current hideous train delays!) and Liphook. Known for choosing smaller wine estates rather than large brands, the festival selection was wide ranging including the wonderful Bellingham Bernard Series Viognier from South Africa which would have been perfect with a Chinese Spicy Ginger Sea Bream through to an elegant Reserve Malbec by Bodegas Fin del Mundo, which translates as the Cellars at the End of the World – appropriate as it’s from the cooler climes of Patagonia in the South of Argentina!
Vin Wine Merchants, the new shop started by local Wine Educators, the Solent Wine Experience were showing a classic Entre Deux Mers from Bordeaux, an eminently quaffable summer white as well as for those after something a little more esoteric, a Marsanne Reserve from Uruguay! Their small courtyard in the heart of the attractive coastal town of Emsworth is a great place to relax and enjoy their wines with charcuterie & cheese platters. But it was the beautiful artwork on display that first enticed you to their stand. Striking drawings in Indian Ink of gnarled vines created by local Emsworth artist, Steven Massey, the pictures would make a beautiful present for any wine lover!
If someone offers you a Chardonnay from Canterbury, you’d probably think first of the South island of New Zealand, where the Canterbury region hugs the Pacific Ocean. So at the Simpsons Wine Estate stand, a bit of a surprise to find out this wine hailed from a bit closer, from Kent. A new estate whose vines are still establishing themselves in that sunny corner of South East England, they also own Domaine Sainte Rose in Southern France and were showing a delightful Barrel Selection Rousanne, displaying how well this Southern Rhône variety has found a home in their Languedoc estate.
All this wonderful wine was superbly backed up by a tempting range of food stands as tempting smells wafted across the vines, of South African sausages on the Braai courtesy of the award winning Simply African Food. If you think you know Pork Pies, you’ll think again after tasting the truly fabulous Pork Pie from Jake’s Artisan Foods. Not filled with artificial pink mushy meat, these heavenly pies are delicious chunks of hand cut pork encased in a classic hot water pastry case and great tasting jelly. A perfect pairing for a glass of the spicy Crozes-Hermitage on the General Wine stand!
To keep the younger visitors smiling, refreshing local ice creams made from Jersey milk by Meadow Cottage Farmhouse were being served from an old fashioned tricycle. Two of the flavours Apricot & Mango and Vanilla & Stem Ginger would actually go quite well with a chilled glass of the Late Harvest Rousanne on the Simpsons stall. The image of a summer English fete was enhanced even more by the bunting on Crepe Britain, whose scrumptious crepes had some unusual fillings such as Chorizo & Jalapenos but what could be a more traditionally English flavour than Cheese & Pickle!
Cork & Cheese, a Hampshire deli that stocks a wide array of English Cheeses were there tempting all turophiles (that’s Cheese lovers to most of us!) So a little retail therapy was called for (and cheese is SO much more fun to shop for than shoes!) Hard to choose but plumped for some Tunworth, a glorious squidgy Camembert cheese from Hampshire and even more local from the Goodwood Estate, Molecomb Blue, award winning soft blue cheese.
Cupcakes seem to have taken over the world, so good to see Cupcakes with a twist from Boozy Bakers, staying with the day’s drinks theme, make strictly for adults flavours with their Gin & Tonic, Prosecco or Limoncello flavour Cup Cakes.
Throughout the day, were a series of Masterclasses from their brilliant in-house Wine Educator, Katrina Smith, superbly explaining all about Pinot Noir, through to Ian Kellett, (MD at Hambledon) who studied wine making at Plumpton College, waxing lyrical about the terroir of their vineyards and even a Masterclass with the energetic, enthusiastic whirlwind that is Joe Wadsack. A great personality of the wine trade, his depth of knowledge is so brilliantly communicated to all levels of wine lovers and combined with a true love of putting the right wine with the right food! Recently seen on This Morning tasting the new premium range of Bag in Box wines that are undergoing a revival, there seems no end to Joe’s fount of knowledge all things food and wine! Hambledon have a gravity fed winery, so Felix, their French wine maker was also hosting visits to their cellars in between all the tastings.
Hambledon run a great event calendar, so if you’d like to learn a bit more about wine, why not sign up for one of their WSET courses!
A glorious day, which seemed so very typically English, held in Hambledon, the Cradle of Cricket, set against a bucolic backdrop, with the vines flourishing as a reminder that vines have been grown in England since the Doomsday book. Combined with the welcoming team at Hambledon, this is an wonderful wine event that is already in next year’s diary!
If you’d like to know more about English Wines, do visit http://www.englishwineproducers.co.uk