Thursday, March 10, 2011

Three Choirs Vineyard

An English vineyard in February? Well, don't be surprised given all this talk about climate change. These days there is much to be said for the oenological advances in Blighty, which could be very due to the weather.

Despite the feathery drizzle, one could almost imagine France with the undulating grounds of the Three Choirs Vineyard. It is the largest vineyard in Gloucestershire, amongst 500 others. You heard that right first time, there are about 500 vineyards in the county alone. Like many others, Three Choirs began from one acre, today now at an impressive 75.

I'd "Adopted a Vine" for the Boy's birthday last year, intending for a summer seance and ending up having to rush and use it up before it expired. The experience included a tour of the grounds, a two course lunch at the restaurant with wine and coffee, "toasting" the adopted vine with sparkling wine, a flight of 5 Three Choirs and 2 bottles to take home! It's more than worth the trip down and makes for a super fun day out.

We yielded to our rumbling tums (2 hours on the train from Paddington gives you the rumblies) and went straight into lunch. Our shared starter of a Baked Camembert with a Beetroot Chutney fooled us with its simple outside. Pure molten deliciousness, and a surprise kick of star anise from the beetroot worked like a charm.

A perfect oozy moment!

On the mains front, was straightforward classic food cooked very well. Not a place for swooshes and tricks but that's not what they are trying to do. My sea bream with a balsamic rocket salad and chive sauce was fresh, very moist and of generous portion.

Salmon with pureed potatoes with more chive sauce was a little bit simpler, and again textbook cooked to perfection.

Whilst the food may have appeared simple, it paired very nicely with the Coleridge Hills 2009 which was a crisp, dry white, with elderflower notes. Definitely an excellent match for our fish courses and for gentle afternoon sipping. All of Three Choirs wines retail only in the UK, at their winery itself, and at Waitrose and Tesco's.

Desserts are the very prim and proper English kind, we shared a very grainy but moist cherry and almond tart, served with vanilla ice cream and raspberry sauce. Lovely.

And after two glasses of sparkling wine later, we had another 5 wines each from the winery to taste. We chose from a list of about 15 wines, divided into Dry, Medium Dry and Medium, including ales and cider made from their sister brewery, Whittingtons.

Forgive me for not making detailed tasting notes of all the wines we had (my motor skills were just a little frazzled from the tipples), though I remember really enjoying mainly the whites (Three Choirs makes them from German grapes, then growing them locally) and thinking the roses were far too strawberried and sweet for my liking. Sadly there were no reds to try, owing to a recent bad harvest.

We were then taken on a tour of the grounds and wine production area, by an excellent tour guide who gave a thorough run through of their processes, methods and offerings. Sparkling wine continues to be their flagship item, having a dry, cider note to it.

Head down to Gloucestershire and be charmed by the rolling hills and interesting produce this county has to offer. It must be absolutely stunning in the summer, so fingers crossed for a sizzler this year! An "Adopt a vine" experience is just under GBP 90, covers two people and I would highly recommend this for a romantic day or weekend out. If heading out from London, the easiest way to get there is a train from Paddington to Gloucester train station, and then a taxi to the venue. Or in a convertible in summer. Chin chin!

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