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English Wine

on May 19, 2011

Have you ever noticed how the bottle of wine that you bought in Rioja or Burgundy or a little back street in Chablis, and which tasted mouth wateringly delicious when you were there, never tastes quite as good back home? It could be the effect of the lovely holiday air, or the ambience in the particular restaurant. It might be the effect of carrying it all those hundreds of miles home that caused the wine to deterioriate. Most probably, you’re not eating it with the same type of food that was cooked the way the locals cooked it wherever you were lucky enough to find yourself.

Lots of places have specific wine matching events and boast a splendid array of wines and cuisines from around the world. When I joined Alex on his Vintners’ Cup prize tour of South African vineyards back in 2005, we were impressed by how much this has entered the culture over there. One restaurant in particular – Haute Cabrière – took the very sensible step of suggesting the wines that go with the food they offer, actually listing the best matching wine alongside the decription of each dish. Even more sensibly it offered all wines by the glass, and starter sized portions of all dishes, so you could work your way through at least 4, 5 or even 6 dishes (and wines – purely in the line of research, of course) without bloating yourself, or your credit card!

We haven’t embraced this concept to quite the same degree here yet, possibly because our wine industry is still just emerging. Hearteningly, there are an increasing number of restaurants that source as much as possible locally, including the wines.

As asparagus is in season at the moment, when we had friends over the other day we chose it as a starter (a Rick Stein, “Food Heroes” recipe, simply done with a touch of parmesan, English butter and salt). I’ve always known that the Alexis should go well with asparagus, but was blown away by how delicious the two are together.

Inspired by this food match, I got a bit carried away and planned an entire dinner party around our wines (for research again, you understand!) We had barbecued, locally sourced, Romney lamb with our Rosé, an old fashioned apple pie with the Vessel IV (it’s distressing hard to find local apples in the supermarkets, despite the fact that we could have a different variety of English apple every day for two years, and not eat the same one twice), and English Cheddar and bread from the local bakery with our Elderberry wine, a combination that I personally have been raving about since Christmas.

Yes, of course, I am biased. But it is one of the many beauties of English wine – it should always taste as good as it did when you first tried it, and the local food that will complement it best is literally just on your doorstep.

English Wine Week is coming up at the end of the month 28th May to 5th June – what more excuse do you need to try a bottle of wine from your local vineyard with traditional English fayre. Send us your photos, comments, or recipes if you do, and we’ll do a separate post with details of the best responses, and a bottle of our Brut for the most interesting, funny or inspiring response.

P.S. The Brut goes fabulously with fish and chips (I have done extensive research on the matter), but I do admit it’s a lazy option, and not necessarily for a dinner party, but if you’re planning a night in anyway…

See Food & Wine Matching 2 for more on the subject.

Mark HuntleyEnglish Wine