Archives: March, 2015

Cornwall 2014 – Vintage Report

This month’s Cornwall Today feature on the 2014 Cornwall Vintage gave Jon the perfect excuse to visit some of the area’s fabulous vineyards, and try and glass or two….

English wine? Cornish wine? Ten years ago, you might have laughed at the idea , but now, it seems to me, now is the hour for English wine. There seems, at last, to be the proper respect for English wine among the drinking public. Maybe the quality now lives up to the hype. Maybe it was William and Kate drinking English wine at their wedding. But whatever the reason; more English wine will be made, drunk and enjoyed, in 2015 than ever before.

In Cornwall we should be behind our local vineyards and we should routinely drink Cornish wine. The great news is that 2014 was one of the best ever years for Cornish winemakers, which means lots of great wine to drink in 2015.

The reason is the weather. We had a fantastic summer last year didn’t we? Day after day of warm sunny weather, a decent Spring and a warm dry Autumn. Great for the locals, great for the visitors and of course, great weather for growing grapes.

To grow grapes well in Cornwall, or anywhere else, there are a few times of year that really matter. The first is when the vine flowers. Just like any other fruiting plant, vines grow flowers, the flowers are pollinated and fruit then grows around the pollinated seeds. With grapes in Cornwall this happens at the end of June.

The weather at this time of year though is critical. If it is cold, windy or wet the flowers will be damaged before they have the chance to pollinate and set fruit on the vine. In June last year things went well, vineyards had great fruit set and consequently the chance of a big harvest.

The next important time is the harvest itself. In Cornwall grapes are usually picked in late October. Again, what is needed is a spell of warm, dry weather to allow the grapes to increase their sugar content and become nicely ripe. Rain or cold, misty days at this time can be a disaster, but again, 2014 was a kind year. There was even some helpful rain in August to swell the crop.

We have three commercial scale wine producers in Cornwall; Polgoon just outside Penzance, Knightor in clay country near Trethurgy and, of course, the largest and long established Camel Valley at Nanstallon near Wadebridge.

Back in October, with picking safely completed, Bob Lindo of Camel Valley described 2014 as “the vintage of dreams” with the harvest completed by 7th October, the date it usually begins. Adrian Derx from Knightor commented that the unseasonally dry Autumn gave them higher than usual yields of ripe, healthy grapes and that the vintage in Cornwall was significantly better than further East in Sussex and Hampshire. Kim Coulson from Polgoon was similarly upbeat, saying that this was their best ever vintage.

Back in January I was lucky enough to taste some of the wine maturing in tank at at Polgoon and there is most certainly some delicious wine coming through. Look out for their Bacchus, a UK answer to Sauvignon Blanc, the soft, elegant Madelaine Angevine and a nicely aromatic blend from Seyval Blanc and Ortega. There is also some lovely Pinot Noir and the sparkling from this will certainly be one to look out for when it is ready in 2016.

I first went to Knightor vineyard in February and arrived to find a team of staff busy bottling the 2014 Carpe Diem Rose. We headed back to the well equipped tasting room to taste this and the lovely Carpe Diem white. Both are delicious, bright, crisp wines- designed to be drunk young and fresh. I also tasted single vineyard Bacchus and Pinot Noir Rose, both from the Portscatho 2014 harvest. The wines have a real theme of lively and quite complex floral and aromatic fruit, set beside a light body and racy tangy freshness- delicious, in other words.

Most of you will, I am sure by now, have tried Camel Valley. The wines are excellent and need no introduction. It will nevertheless be a real treat to try the still 2014 wines as they start to be released this Spring and the Sparkling from 2016 onwards.

All of the vineyards in Cornwall accept visitors and, if you are at all interested in wine, it is fascinating to take the tour, view what goes on, and, of course, taste the wine. Please do make the time to visit. You can also find these wines at the specialist wine shops across the county. For more information on visits and on stockists have a look at the vineyards own websites.

This month I am, of course, going to recommend wines from our local producers. You probably know the excellent Camel Valley, so, to give the newcomers a helping hand, please do seek these out.

Polgoon Vineyard 2014 Madeleine Angevine. Usually this costs around £15 and is available from the vineyard or good (independent!) wine shops around the County.

Knightor 2014 Carpe Diem. This is available as a white or rose style. Expect to pay around £14 and again it available from the vineyard or good wine shops.

SetHeight500-vineyardfromhill6Camel Valley Vineyard

New Zealand – Sauvignon and Beyond….

Jon’s missive this month is about the joys of discovering the wines of New Zealand, beyond the phenomenally successful Sauvignon Blanc. You can find Jon’s wine column in Cornwall Today every month.

If there is a place I’d like to visit it has to be New Zealand. Nice people, lots of open space, incredible scenery and fantastic wine. What’s not to like?

New Zealand is also a success story in the world of wine. Twenty five years ago almost no-one in the UK would have tried a New Zealand wine. Now, although the country still represents only around 1% of wine sold in the UK, it commands the highest price per bottle of any country in the world. Not only that, it can make a convincing case to be the home of the world’s most popular and distinctive style; Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

Marlborough Sauvignon has been a phenomenal success. Pungently, vibrantly fruity and instantly recogniseable, it is easy to like and sells by the truckload. What is, to me anyway, a shame is that this success means people overlook other Kiwi styles that are as good, or better. So here are some suggestions for you to try.

Aromatic styles. The same sunny but cool conditions you need to grow Sauvignon Blanc are also perfect for aromatic grapes such as Gewurtztraminer, Pinot Gris and Riesling. The best of these are akin to wines from Alsace in style with richness of fruit, concentration and ripeness all balanced with great acidity to keep them fresh and zingy in your glass.

Pinot Noir. This is a difficult wine to get right but the best from New Zealand have a ringing clarity of bright fruit flavours alongside huge fresh intensity. The Central Otago sub-region right down in the South island is excellent, but there are also great wines from Marlborough, Waipara and Martinborough.

Big reds. This is perhaps the least likely style for New Zealand to make, since full bodied reds from Merlot, Cabernet and Shiraz in particular need real warmth to ripen the grapes. But, New Zealand is a long country, and conditions on the North Island, particularly on the more sheltered East coast at Hawkes Bay, are far warmer than further South. Expect to find bright, spicy, Syrah styles but with aromatic fruit and moderate weight. Cabernet and Merlot are similar in weight to Bordeaux but with particularly clear and crisp fruit flavours.

To find these wines, look for regions other than Marlborough and grapes other than Sauvignon. Prices for all but the top few wines will be in the £10 to £25 range, so a little more than other countries but the quality you will find is excellent. Do try your local independent shop and do ask for suggestions.

So, that’s my bit of a push for the diversity and sheer joy of New Zealand. Now I just hope I can find enough spare time and money to get myself over there.

One to try. Huia Gewurtztraminer. This is from Marlborough and is made by the wonderful, softly spoken, Claire Allen and husband Mike. All of the wines they make are organic and biodynamic. It has a classic Gewurtztraminer nose with lychee, Turkish delight and a huge ripe intensity. It is delicious.

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Mother’s Day Lunch

Without further ado, we present our Mother’s Day Lunch menu: Guaranteed to impress and keep you in the good books for an entire year (especially if you order a glass of bubbles to start).

We have three sittings available for the 15th March – 12 -12:30, 2 – 2:30 and 4 – 4:30. Prices are our regular 2 or 3 course rates of £17/£22.

Please call 01736 753696 to book. We look forward to seeing you on the day, on your best behavior of course….

Starters

Warm Flat Bread, Trio of Dips
Cajun Squid, Melon & Sweet Chilli Salsa
Cauliflower Pakoras, Sour Mint Dip
Crab Fritters, Saffron Mayo

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Main

Roast Topside Beef, Yorkshire Pudding, Creamed Horseradish
Roast Leg Of Lamb, Bacon & Sage Stuffing, Mint Sauce
Roast Pork Shoulder, Baked Honey & Thyme Apple
Harrissa Baked Cod, Apricot Cous Cous, Confit Garlic, Purple Sprouting, Toasted Hazelnut
Spinach & Ricotta Dumplings, Capers, Tomato Napoli, Salsa Verde

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Sides £3

Hand Cut Fries / Rocket & Parmesan / Seasonal Vegetables
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Dessert

Warm Chocolate Pudding Pot, Orange & Cardamon Mascarpone
Chocolate Brownie Sundae
White Chocolate & Fig Creme Brûlée, Almond Shortbread
Trio of Ice creams