Archive for the ‘Wine’ Category

“Are you mad? the alliance…..”

I’m aware that the majority of my recent posts have been somewhat heavy on the wargames front so after a 3 month hiatus, just like London buses here’s the second of today’s musings and something completely different. Having booked in for an “Everything English” supper club evening at Rotherfield’s rather splendid Courtyard Café ( to celebrate St George’s day I suppose it was inevitable that sooner or later I’d be asked to don the old 30 kilo’s (4 & 3/4 stones) of metal beautificence (my 15 year old armour from to add a touch of flavour to the event and to be honest I’ve always wanted to see if eating and drinking in full harness could be done. Well the answer is YES although wearing it for 7 hours has resulted in two walnut sized lumps on my collar bones. Still it was worth it especially as one managed to enjoy a few glasses of one of ones favourite white wines, none other than the award winning Horsmonden dry from Davenport Vineyards.

Dum vivimus, vivamus

IMG_3162 (800x600)With those doctored immortal words from Professor Farnsworth ringing in my ears its time to enthuse. Following nationwide coverage in the Daily Telegraph in May, those rather clever chaps at Davenport vineyards have now released their 2013 vintages. Horsmonden White and in what can best be described as what Chas is to Morph, its cheeky little cousin Diamond Fields Rose. Quintessentially English and organic to boot those summer days and evenings sitting in the garden dining al fresco just got a whole lot more interesting (especially as writing this today happens to be one of my penitential wine free nights……..grrrrr).

But thats not all, their rather fetching 2009 Limney Sparkling wine made from grapes picked at the Rotherfield site has just won the prestigious  Vintners Trophy for best UK Sparkling Wine. Not cheap but if you want a change from Champagne or Prosecco this is definitely worth a punt.

More deets on their website – and I am informed they’re even on that not so new new fangled Twitter thing as well.

And if you want to meet the guys, you can as they’ll be at the Rotherfield Fiesta on the 19th July, part of a three day celebration about all that’s good in Rotherfield and East Sussex and all for a good cause.


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Having helped pick my share of the 26 or so tonnes of grapes last year the weather this year looks likely to have an even larger bumper crop so its time to stock-pile the atomic strength co-codamol back pain tablets.

Horsmonden Dry 2013 vintage

Horsmonden Dry 2013 vintage

At last news on last years efforts. Very soon Rotherfields finest will be on sale. Those back breaking 10 hour days grape-picking last year look to have finally borne fruit (ed pun intended). Coming home stinking of grape juice with pruned up and secateur notched fingers not to mention trench foot look to be well worth it.

Davenport vineyards is a small family concern based in Sussex with vineyards there and in Kent and run by a fantastic bunch of enthusiastic winemakers. For the past 20 or so years they have been making organic dry whites, sparkling wines, occasional Pinot Noir reds and this year possibly a Rose. Featured in the latest (7th edition) World Atlas of Wine they have won plenty of World Wine awards and their products are well worth a try if you want proof that the English can produce more than just fizz.  It was a sheer pleasure to help out last year picking about 25 metric tonnes of Siegerebe, Ortega, Bacchus, Huxelrebe, Pinot Noir, Auxerois, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay.  If you’ll forgive my own enthusiasm, I can’t wait to give this a right old go! 

Website –

Now I use this adjective when I’m describing something that I really really enjoy as oppose the formal definition of excessive sycophantic or fawning flattery. But then that’s because I always refer to it about food and drink not people although Hayley Atwell‘s curves could possibly qualify………

That fine chef/cook Nigel Slater used it in one of our cookbooks to describe a gratin dauphinoise as “a creamy unctuous potato dish” and that is just about the perfect way to describe it, infact my mouth is watering just as I type.  Cauliflower cheese sauce and even the missus’ egg mayo also deserve this term so it really doesn’t need to be restricted to posh nosh. As an oenophile I also enjoy the way some winemakers use it when describing their unctuous tannins (the compound released from grape skins, seeds and stems during pressing).

For me its indulging in a guilty pleasure. Something that almost certainly isn’t that good for you health wise but given the chance you’re going to utterly devour it and lick your plate for good measure afterwards.


Afternoon nap for young Mr Vespa after quaffing too much of Languedoc's finest Picpoul de Pinet.

Afternoon nap for young Mr Vespa after quaffing too much of Languedoc’s finest Picpoul de Pinet.

So summers finally over and sitting in the garden dining al fresco (not sure if Iike that term) now has to be consigned to memory for another 8 months or so.  We’ve had a bumper year of new and interesting visitors to the garden so here’s one that to be honest I’ll be happy if it never ventures back again.

From mid August this year and the first time in a few years we had those pesky wasps turning up the moment food was put on the table.  Annoying and some had to be disposed of by drowning like Clarence not in Malmsbury wine but Wychwood cider bottle dregs.  So there we were sitting outside enjoying a particularly nice glass of chilled Picpoul de Pinet when a low droning sound caught our ears.  At first I just thought this beastie was a big wasp but as it headed towards the wine I realised this was something far more impressive.  Now according to DEFRA and UK wildlife literature despite their reputation the European Hornet (Vespa Crabro) as oppose bee murdering Asian kamikaze Hornets have no interest in Humans or their food and drink and are actually general docile, only becoming aggressive if threatened.  YEAH RIGHT, we were taking no chances and scarpered to the safety of the kitchen to observe this 1.5″ awesome terror. My first thoughts were to “go on Sidney spray the beast” with an entire can of Raid but despite its fearsome appearance I couldn’t help but admire it.  Before we had time to discuss further it landed on our bottle of wine and yep you guessed it, took a few little sips, climbed inside and plop, fell into the nearly full bottle.  Deciding not to kill it and more concerned about saving the wine I managed to eventually extricate it  by pouring the content through a gauze funnel into a jug. Mr Vespa didn’t seem too impressed with this and was glugging the wine for all his worth as he sat in the bottom of the funnel. Transferring him with due care to an upturned jar was relatively easy as he was totally sloshed by this time but it didn’t stop him attacking the glass for a few minutes before finally dropping off to sleep off his exertions.  A couple of hours later I removed the glass and got as close as I dared to get some pics. What a beauty (just click on the image to get a closer look), once he sobered up he flew unsteadily off, I’ve seen him once more since probably searching for more wine but he’ll have to wait another year now. The worry is that after some research it transpires that Asian Hornets have made landfall in Southern France and are migrating North. Now these b***ards are altogether a different proposition.