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Posts Tagged ‘sparkling wine’

I did something not-so-common last weekend. I spent a very pleasant Friday, Saturday and Sunday getting to know a wine estate in the south of England. Just 50 minutes outside of London, I took a train on a dreary Friday evening in the hopes of escaping the craziness of London and embracing the calm, quiet, wine-filled village of Bolney.

Now, I will preface with the note that I really really really needed a break. To be honest, I would do better to take a week out ASAP. But given demands of work and life, I had to settle for a weekend…I’m sure this is falling on deaf ears as many of you have just as busy lives, if not more so. Alas, I am horrifically self focused when it comes to energy levels and pretty much always crave some relaxation time. But enough about me – let’s get on to the wine….

I decided on and planned this trip approximately 48 hours before arriving in Bolney (see above) so was pleased to have found a nice place to stay (run by a friendly and hospitable couple) and was able to reserve a spot on the vineyard tour at Bolney estate for Saturday afternoon. After an expensive cab ride (they always gouge you when you don’t know where you’re going…I found out later this trip cost me 2x as much as it should have…) I arrived at a cute cottage style house and was greeted by Beverly at her home, Broxmead Paddock. She showed me to the ground floor room. Best thing? I had asked her to place a bottle of the local red wine in my room on my arrival so I was able to immediately drop my stuff and put my feet up. The wine itself? Nothing to write home about. It was more the experience of it rather than the actual quality. It was a bit harsh, slightly unbalanced with a very strong taste of unripe cherries (made from Dornfelder and Rondo grapes). After a few sips however, it goes down just fine…

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I went to the local pub for dinner (Beverly and her husband Brian dropped me off on their way to the theatre – so cute!). Had a gorgeous Venison dish with some really tasty Chilean Merlot. The pub itself had a relatively lively crowd for early on a Friday evening with a roaring fire and very warm feel. I didn’t want to leave but alas, exhaustion took over and I made the 10 minute trek through the very dark road (Beverly had given me a torch (aka a flashlight) earlier so that I could find my way home).

On Saturday morning I awoke to a big breakfast of eggs benedict cooked to order by Brian (ridiculously good) and set off for a long walk around the local area. One thing that struck me beyond the beauty and quaintness of the village was that even though you are in the country, you can always hear the motorway. Its a low buzz in the background no matter how far away from it you feelyou are. I loved this town – but seriously – that motorway would drive me crazy. Anyway – I got lost (of course) and thankfully used my phone to find my way back to the house, tired and ready for a nap…and a cheeky glass of wine in preparation for my vineyard tour!

After a few hours of chill, Beverly drove me out to the vineyard and dropped me off (making sure I was armed with my torch for the 30 minute walk home). One note: I could tell that this tour is not a common thing for wine-lovers to go on. Know why? They price it out by couple. There was no single person pricing available. Result? Me, alone with 4 couples, all of whom received the tour as a gift. That said, the tour itself was brilliant. We started off with a glass of their house sparkling, Bolney Bubbles. Distinct elderflowers and a gorgeous mouthfeel. Really a highlight.

We toured through the vines, learned about how the estate has been managed and a bit about the winemaker, Sam. Our tour guide then took us step by step through the process of making the sparkling (and to a lesser extent, the still) wines. First up was the fermentation tanks and the oak barrels used for aging. We were also given a taste of the Rondo wine in its partially fermented state to see what it was like (don’t recommend it…). Next it was on to the room for riddling, disgorging and bottling – which was my personal fav. They stack all the bottles up in a time intensive and consequently expensive process of extracting the dead yeast from the sparkling wine. Eventually they remove the yeast by freezing it at the top of the bottle and taking it out. They quickly replace the lost liquid and cork the wine.

We rounded out the tour with a tasting back in the tasting room followed by a ploughmans dinner. The main standouts were the sparkling wines and I ended up going home with 6x Bolney Bubbly (£17.99 per bottle – bit pricey but it was amazin’). After being the only singleton and meeting most of my fellow tour-ers, a very nice couple from Reading offered to drop me at the Broxmead Paddock so that I didn’t have to walk home in the dark. People are so nice outside of London!

After an early to bed Saturday night and another of Brian’s spectacular breakfasts on Sunday morning, I had a local esthetician come to the house (as you do!). After a long and relaxing facial & pedicure, I wandered down to the local pub for a cup of soup and another glass of that yummy Chilean merlot. I then made my way to the train station after hugs with Beverly and promises of returning soon. 50 minutes later I was dumped back into the center of London and immediately started planning my next wine holiday….

Spain? France? Perhaps somewhere a bit further afield like South Africa? Decisions decisions.

 

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Ahhh the day of love…or just another day to try an extra special wine??  Whatever it means to you, have a look at some ideas to mark the occasion with someone special (i.e. yourself!).
Here are some ideas to spark the LOVE….

A Valentines day MUST – BUBBLES!!
Grab a bottle of Prosecco. Honestly – it doesn’t much matter which one. Spend no more than 10 quid on it, make sure its chilled and pour for your loved ones at the beginning of the evening. If you don’t have champagne flutes – buy them. It is worth it. Never, never, never, NEVER serve a loved one a glass of anything bubbly in a regular wine glass. That is the definition of taboo. Plus – Sainsburys sells 4x flutes for 4 quid – don’t be a cheapskate…
For an example: This one is on sale! 

Want to upgrade and get a little bit fancy? Look for Blanc de Blancs. 100% Chardonnay sparkling wine. Yummy, special and sure to impress. My favorite is Argyle from Oregon (argylewinery.com)

If you would like to have another wine with food, here are a few sure to impress stunners:

LOVE: Petalos Bierzo, Castilla y Leon, 2009 Descendientes de J. Palacios
Ridiculously tasty red wine from a little known region in Spain. I have had three bottles of this in my house – the last was opened last night. Red Cherries galore with a strong acidity that will stand up to some really gorgeous cheese. I had a humble meal of garlic/onion soft cheese and dense sunflower rye bread made extra special by this fantastic wine…Read the reviews on Majestic’s site for more info (and more professional reviews!)

ONE TO TRY: Chateau Grand Faurie Larose, 2006 St-Emilion, Grand Cru
Never had it before but judging by the region and its Grand Cru rating, I would test out this yummy merlot based Bordeaux. Good price point for a classy wine – grab some cheeses, bit of cured meat and you are away!

ONE FOR DESSERT: Royal Tokaji Late Harvest 2009
Honestly, you can’t get much more impressive than Royal Tokaji. Have it on its own or with some gooey, stinky blue cheese.

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I’m hoping to gather a list of good wine courses that are available in Sydney. Can you help? I’m looking for an introductory course on tasting, varietals, global wine regions, viticulture, etc. If you have been on a good course, please let me know.

Thanks!

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There is nothing more exciting than the pop of a cork of sparkling wine. When it comes to sparkling though, I have found that you can be severely disappointed once that cork pops out and you slide the contents into an appropriate glass flute. Dry, sweet, flat, there are so many characteristics of a bad bottle of sparkling wine. Therefore, when I can find it, I always stick to the same varietal: pure, clean chardonay (aka Blanc de Blancs). Blanc de blancs sparkling wine is 100% chardonay grapes and thus displays the clean, fruity elegance that always guarantees a smile of satisfaction on my face. Its hard to find and is usually on the higher end in price.

My favorite:

Argyle Winery, Williamette Valley, Oregon 2000 ($40 USD per bottle)

Tasting notes (source: http://argylewinery.com/2000-Blanc-de-Blancs.php)

It is amazing that Mother Nature should provide us with the perfect growing season for phenomenal sparkling wines in the beginning of the New Millennium! I believe this wine to be the most exciting Blanc de Blancs yet derived from Argyle. Mere words cannot describe the balance between zippy minerality and ripe creamy elegance contributed by tree fruit aromas and flavors of apple, Anjou pear, and a splash of white peach. Rich, creamy, and balanced from start to finish, remember this wine as your benchmark for great Blanc de Blancs.

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