Category Archives: Wine and Spirits

Celebrate Valentine’s at The Vineyard this February

rosesandsuitcase 914x437 Celebrate Valentine’s at The Vineyard this FebruaryValentine’s is all about spending time with your loved one, and with many of us having busy schedule, it’s the perfect reason to treat yourself and partner by booking a spa day or evening, having a couples massages, enjoying a romantic dinner for two or Champagne afternoon tea.

Facial 150x150 Celebrate Valentine’s at The Vineyard this FebruaryVoted the most romantic retreat by the Good Spa Guide, The Vineyard Spa is the ideal place to come for a romantic day with your partner. Relax in the tranquil surroundings and enjoying spending time with just the two of you. We have plenty of spa days and evenings to choose from whatever your budget and the time you have to spare. From our pampering evening where you’ll be treated to a 25 minute treatment, a main course from our spa menu and use of the spa for four hours during the evening to our Ultimate Spa Day, which includes three relaxing treatments of your choice, a Bento Box lunch, light refreshments throughout the day and full use of the spa pool, Jacuzzi, steam, sauna rooms and poolside area.

We are lucky enough to have a couple’s treatment room, perfect for a romantic massage or facial. Choose from our range of Darphin and VitaMan facials and massages, or choose a treatment from our signature selection. Browse our treatment brochure for our full list of treatments.

For 13th and 14th February, our Executive Chef, Daniel Galmiche has created a special fiveCheese board with wine 377 x 221 150x150 Celebrate Valentine’s at The Vineyard this February course tasting menu with matching wines and a special sharing dessert for Valentine’s at The Vineyard. This time of year is always popular with our guests, but we do have limited availability. Browse the menu and call us to reserve your table if you’d like to celebrate with us and why not stay the night?

tumblr mqjedtKekL1rveocqo1 r1 1280 150x150 Celebrate Valentine’s at The Vineyard this FebruaryThink delicious cakes, pastries and mini sandwiches, plus a glass of chilled Champagne in luxurious surroundings and you have Champagne afternoon tea at The Vineyard. Delicately created by our Head Pastry Chef, Anthony Millon, you’ll be in afternoon tea heaven. Browse our sample menu to whet your appetite.

The Best of Winter Wines

glassesinarow 580 x 288 The Best of Winter WinesWell, Christmas has passed, New Year celebrations are done, however winter is still firmly here with all it’s cold, dark mornings and evenings…makes you really fancy a glass of wine!

I’ve always been quite a seasonal drinker, trying to match season to wine style, and rich, heartwarming  winter wines are in my focus this month, along with fortified wines to banish the chill. Here’s a selection of what I’ll be opening over the next few weeks now that my 24-hour detox is over…

2011 Waterstone Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California (£21.12 per bottle)

Rich, blackcurrant-led fruit, spice and vanilla from the oak. This remains one of the best Sunday roast bottles in our house, and works just great with a decent rib roast. Of course, a nice rare T-Bone would accommodate this also!

2004 Vina Bosconia Reserva, Lopez de Heredia, Rioja, Spain (£26.04 per bottle)

My favourite Rioja, made in a timeless, old-school manner. Tempranillo fruit allied to extended oak ageing gives a very classy wine indeed. A classic partner to lamb, but venison is a superb partner too.

NV Sugrue Pierre, Goring Brut, England (£29.87 per bottle)

Can’t exist on red wine alone? Well try this “frankly better than many Champagnes in my opinion” fizz made not that far away by legendary winemaker Dermot Sugrue (he of Nyetimber fame). Loaded with biscuity, brioche notes, citrus flavours and a lovely finish. You all need a bottle of this in the fridge to banish winter blues.

2012 Talley Estate Chardonnay, Arroyo Grande, California (£21.56 per bottle)

Another is our good friend and probably the world’s most revered critic Mr Parker has showered praise upon this winter wine so it probably won’t be around for long! However, if you do get to us in time, you’ll experience a lovely balance of citrus fruit and vanilla – just perfect with chicken dishes and quite highly spiced foods.

1998 Justino’s Colheita Madeira, Madeira (£21.17 per half-bottle)

Finally, a favourite fortified…vintage dated Madeira in very useful halves. Liquid Christmas pudding is the bast tasting note I can think of, with surprisingly high acidity. It’s the perfect end to dinner or as a warming post prandial late-evening…

If food and wine pairing is your thing, why not join us for our Bordeaux wine dinner on 27th February? Discover more

Enjoy!

James Hocking
Director of Wine

Festive Wine Recommendations

glassesinarow 580 x 288 Festive Wine RecommendationsSparkling Summer Header 150x150 Festive Wine RecommendationsWith some many sparkling wines and Champagnes to choose from, which would be your favourite picks for a festive drinks party or as an aperitif on Christmas Day?
For my festive wine recommendations for Christmas Day, I think I’ll play a classic game here and head for Champagne. I’ve always been a fan of the fuller-bodies styles, so Bollinger would be on the hit list, as would Krug subject to lottery winnings! One thing I have tried recently and been very impressed with is sparkling Shiraz (Magpie Estate, Australia). This has enough body to cope with a decent roast dinner, whilst still having all the fun of bubbles…See our wine list for our extensive range of Champagnes and sparkling wines

With the festive season well under way, which varieties of wine are great for mulling and is there a special ingredient you would include?
I guess with mulled wine I would just choose a full-bodied red and keep the price down as you are distorting the flavour so much. Oranges and cinnamon would go into my mix, but I have to say that mulled wine is not quite for me…

Which wines would you be pleased to be given as a Christmas gift?
I’m hopelessly addicted to Riesling, especially that from the Mosel Valley in Germany, so I guess anybody bringing a bottle of Haag, Prüm, or Von Schubert Maximin Grünhaus would be especially welcome! In the wine business, the pros take estate-bottled olive oil to give as gifts. If you’re looking for more gift inspiration, our gift vouchers can be emailed to you instantly. Browse our selection

Are there specific wines or grape varieties that you’d recommend with the traditional Christmas turkey with all the trimmings?
I usually serve red and white concurrently with “event” meals like this, so my red choice tumblr ma5js6MXjY1rveocqo1 1280 150x150 Festive Wine Recommendationswould be Pinot Noir-led. This year, I will be pouring Gevrey-Chambertin En Jouise from Domaine Harmand-Geoffoy in the very heart of Burgundy with all that earthy, elegant red fruit intensity. For white wine would head to my beloved Riesling grape, and I think that maybe something from the Alsace region in France would fit the bill admirably. Try a producer such as Weinbach or Zind Humbrecht.

Most Christmas lunches finish with a Christmas pudding, so what dessert wines would you recommend to match?
Tawny Port is a time-honoured classic – try something like Krohn’s 20-year old Tawny. Australian Liqueur Muscat is another choice. However, this year, I’ll be serving the pud with Argyros Estate Vinsanto from Santorini, Greece. The grapes were sun-dried for around 10 days prior to the fermentation starting, then aged for four years in oak. Trust me – it’s sensational… Browse our fortified and Port selection we serve by the glass

Cheers and have a very merry Christmas

James Hocking
Director of Wine

Fantastic Festive Wines for 2015

Glasses in a row compressed Fantastic Festive Wines for 2015

With some many wines to choose from and enjoy over the festive season, Romain Bourger has selected five of his favourites.

Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs, Napa Valley, 2010
One of the festive wines for 2015 recommended by Romain is  from Schramsberg estate. Owned by J. Davies Estate and established back in 1862, it was one of the pioneering vineyard to produce a sparkling wine using the second fermentation in the bottle, such as Champagne. Blanc de Blancs means white from white and is made from Chardonnay grape. The wine shows a creamy foam and delicate bubbles. The nose has notes of ripe stone fruit, toast, fresh almond and citrus, the palate is creamy with a fresh finish. Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs gained international recognition in 1972 when President Nixon served the wine at the “Toast to Peace” in Beijing, China.

View our selection of sparkling wines and Champagnes by the glass


Peter Michael Winery, L’Après Midi, Knights Valley, 2013
Sir Peter Michael long had a great interest for wine, he established his winery in Sonoma in 1982 and released his first wine in 1987. L’Après Midi, the French for “the afternoon”, is a Sauvignon Blanc based wine blended with a touch of Sémillon which was first produced in 1991. It undergoes its fermentation in oak barrel bringing to the wine a hint of smokiness and a riche texture. It develops aromas of ripe tropical fruit such as passion fruit and fresh mango with a touch of pink grapefruit. The palate has a lovely minerality very well balanced with the oak character. This wine is very well suited for a poached Salmon with a Hollandaise sauce.

Discover more about the Peter Michael Winery


Langhe, Poderi Colla, Bricco del Drago, Piedmont, Italy, 2008
A wine made from a local grape called Nebbiolo, a very delicate and light coloured red wine. This Langhe is a very juicy wine full of plums, red cherry as well as a touch of violet petals. The palate is delicate and perfumed with soft and silky tannins. It shows more dark fruits such as blackcurrant and blackberry with a touch of pepper and leather. This wine is a more wintery wine and goes well with game such has a fillet of venison or cheese.

Discover more about our Italian wine school in 2015


Tio Pepe, Palomino Fino, Jerez, Spain, NV
Unfortunately, sherry is not used enough in gastronomy, however, it is an incredible style of wine because of its diversity and versatility with food. This light and dry Sherry made from Palomino grape is perfect for an aperitif due to its citrus aromas bringing a lively freshness. Its hint of nuttiness makes it well suited for veloutés and soups. Also, a richer style such as an Oloroso or a sweet Pedro Ximene would work very well with cheese or a Christmas pudding.


Tokaji, Disznoko 5 Puttonyos, Tokaj, Hungary, 2007
Since 1992 Disznoko is part of Axa Millesime. This sweet wine is made in a very traditional way. It is produced from a local grape called Furmint. This great pudding wine develops aromas of cooked tropical fruit such as pineapple, mango as well as some acacia honey and a great acidity. The balance is great and the wine shows an amazing balance. This is a fantastic wine to have with Christmas pudding or a trifle.

Discover more about our more unusual wines on our Long List 

Only a few weeks until our annual wine festival on 15th November

glassesinarow 580 x 288 Only a few weeks until our annual wine festival on 15th NovemberWell, with just a few weeks to go to our annual Wine Festival on 15th November, I have written the tasting book and compiled the wines to be poured on the day. I have to say that I’m really pleased with the line-up this year, with real diversity and quality so here’s a little “heads-up” on some of the delights in store… Tickets for the Wine Festival are just £25 and masterclass tickets are £5 per class. View masterclasses and suppliers

Glasses in a row 150x150 Only a few weeks until our annual wine festival on 15th NovemberWe do also have a five course dinner with matching wines to open the annual wine festival on the evening of 14th November. It’s going to be a very lively and entertaining affair with suppliers each giving an insight into the wines they’ve chosen to match with the dishes. We are filling up fast for this event, but do still have places left if you would like to join us. View menu

As you would expect, California will be well-covered on the day, showcasing the best of the true North Coast region (taking in Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties) and wines such as Waterstone, Ferrari-Carano and Donelan Family will be on tasting. Donelan has been our success story of 2014 with just beautiful Chardonnay, Roussanne and Syrah. Peter Michael Winery will have a selection of Pinot Noir plus the Knights Valley flagship Les Pavots on the stand.

Turning to Europe, brilliant winemaker Dermot Sugrue (ex-Nyetimber) will have his Goringtumblr ma5g2y57h11rveocqo1 1280 150x150 Only a few weeks until our annual wine festival on 15th November Brut to show you just how good English fizz can be, however Champagne Taittinger will doubtless want to argue that point with their collection of wines open, plus I will stand my corner with Schramsberg Vineyards! Germany is covered by the wines of Weegmuller and Huesgen whilst Spain has Lopez de Heredia – surely the most classic Rioja you will find. On other stands South Africa, Italy, France and Austria are all showcased. This is truly a world wine festival!

And just to finish, we’ll be opening a selection of Sherries this year, plus a pair of beautiful Madeiras, the perfect Christmas day post prandial.

MeatPlatter 150x150 Only a few weeks until our annual wine festival on 15th NovemberThe Wine Festival begins at 12pm and finishes at 4pm. There will be over 150 wines to taste throughout the day and you’ll also be able to chat to WSET experts about the WSET courses we offer here.  Don’t forget,  your £25 wine ticket can be redeemed against a case of wine over the value of £250 and we also have a special lunch menu available in our restaurant for just £25 per person. To view the menu, please visit our website.

See you there…

James Hocking
Director of Wine
The Vineyard Cellars

Learn all about wine in a day with WSET

Glasses in a row Learn all about wine in a day with WSET

In our blog this week we’d like to give you an insight into what the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 1 Award in Wines course is all about. Then you can decide whether it’s the right level for you.

What is WSET?

The Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) was founded in 1969 to provide high quality education and training in wines and spirits. Since then, WSET has grown into the foremost international body in the field of wines and spirits education, with a suite of sought-after qualifications.

The morning of the course

glassesinarow 580 x 288 150x150 Learn all about wine in a day with WSETYou’ll be asked to arrive at The Vineyard at 9.30am for registration and refreshments before the course begins at 10am. The morning session covers what wine is, the different wine styles, an you get to learn about sweetness, body and other factors such as oak, tannin and acidity.

 

Tasting wines and grape varieties

While tasting many different wines you’ll then move onto learning all about how climate affects the grapes’ acidity and sweetness amongst others things and then you’ll move onto the principal grape varieties. There will be activities through the morning to test your knowledge and help you learn all the important facts you’ll need for the exam. Other topics covered include how wine is made, how to taste wine like a professional.

A lovely lunch at The Vineyard’s restaurant

This is always a good time to break for lunch where you’ll enjoy a three course lunch withVineyard 69 150x150 Learn all about wine in a day with WSET matching wines in The Vineyard’s elegant restaurant. James Hocking, the WSET tutor, will talk you through the wines and why they match so well with each course so you can get a more practical understanding of food and wine matching. Take a look at our current lunch menu

Storage and service of wine

After a leisurely lunch it’s back to the classroom! The storage and service of wine is covered, which looks into the service temperature of different styles of wine, which glasses to use for which wines, preparing glasses and opening a bottle of wine, and social responsibility when drinking, amongst other things.

Food and wine pairing and the systematic approach to tasting

tumblr mg43b890cs1rveocqo1 1280 150x150 Learn all about wine in a day with WSETNext, you’ll be given a little plate with different foods to try with different wines and James will go through what happens to wine when you eat something sweet and when you eat a food that’s bitter. This will also depend on the style of wine. This part is very interesting and interactive and helps you understand the relationship between food and wine and the skill required to get food and wine pairing right. It does take practice, so don’t expect to get it right first time! Through the course you will be following the systematic approach to tasting, which allows you to identify and describe wines in six easy steps; colour, condition, sweetness, body, flavour characteristics and other which often includes tannin and acidity.

The exam

The course ends with a 30 multiple choice questionnaire that will test your knowledge of everything you’ve learned throughout the day. You will hear in about three weeks or so as to whether you have passed and we’ll send you out your certificate and lapel pin.

Please click here to discover more about our WSET Level 1 Award in Wines course. If you think you may know many of the topics above, you can move straight to our WSET Level 2 course.

We look forward to seeing you at one of our WSET courses in the near future.

James Hocking
WSET Tutor

Wine Tasting – A Perfect Autumn Activity

Glasses in a row 1024x609 Wine Tasting   A Perfect Autumn ActivityAs we say goodbye to summer (although hopefully we’ll have a few more balmy days) we look forward to autumn with the leaves turning to rich, vibrant colours
and being cosy inside warming ourselves in front of a roaring fire and enjoying a lovely glass of red wine.

Whether its red, white or rosé wine that takes your fancy or maybe all of them depending on your mood, dishes you’re matching wines with or simply the occasion, there’s lots of ways to have fun with wine.

tumblr mwbblh9Y6z1rveocqo1 1280 150x150 Wine Tasting   A Perfect Autumn ActivityWe’ve found that our selection of wine tasting masterclasses go down well with our corporate guests who’ve had a really productive day and simply want to relax and have fun with colleagues, but still learn a little. The blind tasting masterclass is always a good one to choose and gets everyone talking about the wine or wines in question. Or if you’re looking to perhaps focus on a specific country, region or style of wine, we can look to tailor your wine tasting to suit you and you team. Two of our popular wine tastings are Asian Influences and California Dreaming, but it’s really up to you to choose the topic that’s right for you. We are flexible with where we can hold the masterclasses too. They often take place in our California Bar, but can set up our Calistoga or Oakville suites to accommodate larger groups.

If you’re looking for something a little different then our cocktail masterclasses provide aCheese board with wine 377 x 221 150x150 Wine Tasting   A Perfect Autumn Activity perfect situation for further networking to take place in a fun and informal way. Our Gin Masterclass is a big favourite amongst both our corporate and leisure guests due to the rise in popularity in gin in recent years. Making your own cocktails is really interactive and is a enjoyable way to spend an hour learning new skills and catching up with colleagues. For the beer and cheese lovers among you, you’ll be pleased to hear that we also offer beer tasting and cheese tasting.

If you’re looking to host a meeting during the autumn months, we’d love to hear from you. Feel free to visit our website and see more about our meeting spaces online and please call us on 01635 589407 for more details and a personalised quotation.

Alan’s Summer Wine Suggestions

glassesinarow 580 x 288 Alans Summer Wine Suggestions When it comes to summer, we immediately think of kicking back on the terrace, with a chilled glass of rosé while we enjoy barbecues and light dishes. However, here are a selection of wines to relax and enjoy on those (hopefully) balmy summer evenings….

Sparkling

Champagne, Cava, Prosecco and many New world alternatives make great summer drinking and are guaranteed to get any party going, but for me at this time of year it’s a perfect occasion to drink English fizz. Estates like Nyetimber, Camel Valley, Sugrue Pierre and Ridgeview are snapping at the heels of the Champenois with their classy, elegant bubblys.

My favourite has got to be Blanc de Blancs from Nyetimber in West Sussex, as the elegance, racy acidity and ability to mature is remarkable, often showing flavours of orchard fruits balanced by toasted brioche.

White

Sauvignon Blanc has long been a favourite of many people as a first introduction to wine since chardonnay became a little over blown, but even now many regulars are moving to cool and trendy grapes, like Grüner Veltliner, Viognier and Picpoul. But for me there is nothing better than a glass of cold Albarino from Rias Baixas in North West Spain. This grape has taken the market by storm and is now being planted in New Zealand, California and South Africa with great results, however it is in the cool, verdant Atlantic influenced zone of Galicia that it shows its purest form. Pazo Senorans produce one of the cleanest, freshest versions and this works beautifully when sitting down to fresh crab salad or a plateau de fruits de mer, delicious, but always try to go for the youngest vintage available.

Rosé

Who wasn’t first introduced to rosé wines with Mateus from Portugal? I admit I have drunk (and enjoyed) this in the past, especially ice cold in the Algarve with a plate of locally caught sardines, but back in the UK I would tend to look to France for a great rosé wine. Provence and the Mediterranean coast makes some of the most delicious, delicately coloured wines available, often from Carignan, Syrah, Grenache or other grapes that you would rarely see. First started by running off some of the first pressed juice as a way of improving the body of red wines, they are now usually made as a rosé from the start and can handle many of the rich Mediterranean sauces and flavours used in regional dishes. I particularly enjoy well chilled glass of Chateau Vignelaure rose from Aix-en-Provence with grilled lamb cutlet and a herby ratatouille side dish.

Red

Pinot Noir for me sums up the flavours of summer, bursting with red fruits that are reminiscent of strawberries, raspberries and currants, its almost like you’re getting a glass full of summer pudding!

Don’t be frightened of serving a good New World Pinot slightly chilled either, as this can express more of that fruit character without the heaviness of any oak or excess alcohol. When it comes to Californian Pinot Noir for me it has to be Sonoma, with Russian River being a firm favourite for its balance, elegance and softness of character, Benovia Estates single vineyard range from Pommeraie or Cohn Vineyard are my top picks, that work beautifully with lamb and pork but equally well with a meaty fish like turbot with wild mushrooms and a red wine jus.

Sweet

When it comes to summer desserts I prefer fresh berries, straight from the garden with clotted cream or a little crème fraiche, and so for this pairing a delicate fruity style of dessert wine is called for that will balance the wonderful fragrance of fresh berries without over powering it. A delightful Moscato makes a great choice be it Moscato d’Asti from Italy with its ripe, grapey fruit and soft mousse or from Australia perhaps a Pink Moscato, try Mrs Wiggly by Wirra Wirra, its great on its own but can equally make some great summer cocktails using gin or Pimms as a base!

Cheers

Alan Holmes
Restaurant and Wine Director

A Memorable Trip to Bordeaux

20140520 154840 A Memorable Trip to Bordeaux
By Antonino Ciaccio (one of our sommeliers)

Last month I was lucky enough to spend two days in Bordeaux visiting one of the top, highly regarded wine estates, ‘Chateau Haut Brion’ and the more recent ‘La Mission Haut Brion’.

20140520 160827 150x150 A Memorable Trip to BordeauxAccompanied by five other people on the trip, we were welcomed by the very friendly Sales Manager, Clément Marcotte de Quivières, who drove us to visit the two estates. It was fantastic to see the cellars and the work behind the wineries, and I was impressed by the handmade copper barrels, which the barrel maker spends six months on site making three barrels a day.

My favourite wine has to be ‘Haut Brion 1999′, which has a deep intense ruby colour, plum and dark cherry nose with a leathery character. It has a round intense, silky tannin, balanced acidity and long finish with a touch of spiciness.

Next we visited the tasting room where together with the guide where we had the chance to taste six of the wines ‘en primeur’ (the ones which have been made from the last harvest). The quality of these wines were fantastic even though the barrel ageing wasn’t complete.

20140520 151746 150x150 A Memorable Trip to BordeauxAfter the tasting, we were driven to our lovely guest house, which was an impressive house, traditional in style and furnished with early 20th century furniture. That evening we had a lovely informal food and wine matching dinner with white, rose and red Clarendelle wines, hosted by the Managing Director, Gérard Blanloeil who told us all about how the estate is now so renowned that they sell their wine in over 50 countries and is becoming more popular now in Asian countries.

The next day, after a tasty classic breakfast and a good hot cup of French coffee, we went for an extensive wine tasting hosted by Clément Marcotte de Quivières who showed a range of La Clarendelle wines; a white 2012, a red 2008, and surprisingly a rose. To finish, we tasted a fantastic dessert wine from the estate.

20140521 122334 150x150 A Memorable Trip to BordeauxOur trip came to an end with a memorable lunch hosted by Hospitality Manager Séverine Luke-Paris. We ate in a big old-fashioned style “salle a manger” with a Champagne aperitif and a great classic French lunch served with outstanding matching wines from the estate.

Our first course of green asparagus and vinaigrette sauce was served with two white wines; ‘la mission haut brion ‘ and ‘haut brion white’ with our second course of Cote de boeuf with vegetables and potatoes matched with ‘la mission haut brion 2003′ red and ‘haut brion 1999′. Next followed the delicious cheese course, which was matched with ‘le clarance de haut brion’. To finish we enjoyed a lovely ‘La Clarendelle’ sweet white wine matched with homemade strawberry cake.

Personally, this trip was an experience that has shown me how deep the root of the French gastronomic culture is, and how brilliantly able (not easily) the French maintain the balance between the old wine region wine techniques and tradition and the contemporary world of wine that is a necessity of a 21st century generation.

We have a wine dinner hosted by Haut Brion and Clarendelle on Thursday 25th September at The Vineyard so pop the date in your diaries. More details will be posted on our website shortly.

The Resurgence of Sherry

Our Restaurant and Wine Director, Alan Holmes, was lucky enough to take a trip to Jerez de la Frontera for an opportunity to see Sherry production first hand. He tells us all about the revitalised industry, the infamous cellars, what makes ‘En Rama’ is so special and finally Sherry that tastes like Christmas pudding!

When I was first invited to Jerez de la Frontera for an opportunity to see Sherry production firsthand, I thought it would be interesting from an educational point of view, after all a sip of sherry at Christmas was my first opportunity to taste wines at a young age!

 The Resurgence of SherryNow a modern thinking industry
However, what I didn’t realise was the shock and enlightenment of a revitalised, energised and very modern thinking industry the Sherry industry has become. We were hosted by Gonzalez Byass, famed for their dry Fino sherry, Tio Pepe, which in itself is a legend in this area, a reportedly 700,000 bottles are drunk in the Feria (festival week) in Jerez alone and 1.5 million in Sevilles Feria week (This accounts for 36% of the total Spanish annual sales!)

A welcome dinner and the spectacular Feria
Our first evening dinner started with an ice cold glass of Tio Pepe and a selection of charcuterie and seafood, which was a welcome refresher after our flight. The first thing that struck our group was how cleansing, refreshing and a perfect match with the array of salted and savoury dishes the wine was. Our expert host Jeremy, stated that unfortunately we often keep Fino sherry too long and serve it too warm; the best way to drink it is young and well chilled, that way it slips down a treat! Dish after dish followed, each one matching beautifully with the cold, fresh Fino sherry.

After dinner, we were taken to the main park in Jerez where the festival of the horses is staged for the week long Feria. An amazing onslaught of the senses ensued with lights, colourful costumes, sights, sounds and aromas from all sides, the Spanish certainly know how to throw a party! We were taken to the central stage, a private entertaining area for the International guests of Gonzalez Byass who come from all corners of the globe for this particular week. Here, we met representatives from China, USA and South America, all big markets for Sherry.

 The Resurgence of SherryA tour of the infamous cellars
The following morning, feeling surprisingly fresh… we departed for the cellars, however Gonzalez Byass is more like a village within a city. It has its own streets, its own train service, its own ageing cellar built by a certain Monsieur Eiffel and its own cathedral (all be it a massive wine ageing cathedral). It was here that we were introduced to Antonio Flores, a man with Sherry for blood who was not only born in the cellar, but reportedly conceived there too!

The secrets behind the Palomino grape
He is Mr Gonzalez Byass, with an inside knowledge and experience above most. He explained the special relationship between the Palomino grape, the highly absorbent chalky Albariza soil of Jerez and the cooling, moist Atlantic breeze that makes quality grape growing possible. Cool damp winds blow in off the Atlantic depositing heavy rains in a short period of time in the winter, more so than London in some years. This is soaked up by the porous chalky white soils known as Albariza.

The Palomino grape variety grows well on these soils and is able to get to this moisture  The Resurgence of Sherrythroughout even the hottest summers, giving fresh, high acid fruit perfect for dry sherry production. This is then pressed and fermented, before being fortified to 15.5% and placed into barrels (but only to 4/5 full) to age in what is known as a solera system. It is while in these barrels a yeast, known as flor, grows on top of the wine gradually eating up any remaining sugar and preventing oxidation of the wine, making it completely bone dry.

Blending for the final product occurs by the removal of 1/3 from the lower level, which is refilled from 1/3 younger wine/ which is refilled from 1/3 even younger wine until over time you end up with a consistent high quality wine. This is clarified and filtered to remove any sediment before bottling.

En Rama is taking Sherry drinkers by storm
Occasionally certain barrels will produce an exceptional expression of high quality wine, these barrels are then separated and used for a very recent and innovative style of Fino sherry that is taking sherry drinkers by storm. Known as En Rama or in its raw state, it is bottled unfiltered and unrefined, and best drunk within months of release, showing all the delicacy, intensity and varying nuances that come with tasting the wine straight from the barrel! To prove his point he poured us some wine straight from one of the barrels using a traditional Venenciador, the wine was delicious with a fresh baked bready aroma and zingy fresh palate. Next on our tour were the cellars. Cool and humid areas that are important to allow the flor to grow well while the sherry ages.

 The Resurgence of SherryFor a company like Gonzalez Byass that has been at the heart of sherry production for so many years there is a wealth of history from the Royal cellars where each King or Queen of Spain is dedicated a barrel of sherry, to the many famous people who have visited and signed a barrel. Other famous dignitaries like Sir Winston Churchill and every recent Pope have also been presented with their own barrel.

 The Resurgence of SherryChristmas pudding Sherry…yum
At the end of the tour we were given a complete masterclass on the production, styles and variety of different aged sherries available. Fino being the driest, Oloroso being a dry sherry that has not been allowed to grow any flor, Palo Cortado which is a longer aged Fino or Oloroso with wonderful nutty aromas, and then a selection of 30 year old sherries that used some Pedro Ximenez grapes and tasted like liquid Christmas pudding! This visit and masterclass certainly opened up my eyes to the variety of Sherry and versatility as a food and wine match for many difficult dishes, so look out for some appearing by the glass at The Vineyard soon, then you too can be a part of the Sherry revival.

Cheers!

Alan Holmes
Restaurant and Wine Director