Saturday, 29 September 2012

Sunday Foodie Bit! Viticulture UK!

A vineyard on Jersey: still part of the British experience

Wine a British Drink!

A Sunday in the UK.  Clear sky, just approaching dawn, at 6 am still dark, moon is starting to set.  A  male Owl on old Railway Track at bottom of the Garden, no reply to his part of the twit-ter-whoo. Probably a Barn Owl. Cat has some competition for the local rodent population at last, maybe won't have so many presents placed next to and in food bowl!  

Recently I have been blogging about the Great British Apple.  An event of note is taking take place today (30/09/12) at Audley End House, an Apple festival.  This based around the Organic Kitchen Garden at the house and features experiences from the 1880s.  Apples in this scenario would have been important for large estates attached to the house for producing cider.  Cider was used as part of the wages for the estate workers during harvest time.  Greenhouses attached to the Kitchen Gardens would have been employed to produce grapes for the table, and in some houses pineapples.  Wine would not be made from grapes since the fashion was for grapes to be presented to honoured guests.  Viticulture was not an active part of the estate management over time even though wars with France often restricted the supplies of wine.  Alternative sources often were imported from England's oldest ally the Portuguese.  Port and Madeira have long featured in English cooking and may be making a comeback, especially white port, as more people visit Portugal.

Prior to the loss of Aquitaine,  England had control of large areas what is now the premier Red Wine growing region of France.   The red Bordeaux wines we import into England as Claret come from this is area.  England has a rich history of wine making if you go back to the time when half of the western half of France was under English control (do not tell the French this as they conveniently forget this sometimes!).   In fat today a lot of the trade is till controlled by English interests.  

Flag waving over, what is the English wine (this is a specific definition as there is also British wine made from imported grapes) growing experience? The standard argument most oenologists use  to justify growing wine in England is that Romans did so in Chester and if they could do it then we can do it now.  Climate change apart from then and now, it is possible to make decent grape based wine in England.  Hedgerow wine is a different product but can be equally good!    

As I like to blog about Suffolk I am going to concentrate on identifying the vineyards in the local area to me.  Haverhill is a market town on the Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire border.  We have very near to us (about 5 miles) one of the major labels in English wine Chilford Hall.  I have visited this conference/wedding/function hall and vineyard many times.  The wine is prize winning and does taste good, a white wine grown on the Chalk slopes of the start of the Gog Magog hills close to the highest point in Cambridgeshire.  The source of the River Stour is not that far from the vineyard and consequently the soil is well drained.

Very close to Chilford on the other side of the Gog Magogs on the approach to Cambridge is the Gog Magogs Vineyard .  This is a recently established vineyard (in 1995).  I personally haven't yet tried any of the wine but since it has the same basic terroir (can we use that in England, sounds better than soil) as Chilford Hall similar good results could be expected.

A vineyard that I visited about 7 years ago when the original owners were running it is Giffords Hall in Suffolk. My house at school was named after this hall, the other two being after Kentwell Hall, and Melford Hall so has a little connection to me.  A small vineyard operated by just one couple, the tour was pretty eccentric and entertaining as  the process was explained.  Impressed by the passion and knowledge I borrowed the video of the process and used it in Science Lessons to illustrate the fact that science is a very old profession not just a preserve of 19th and 20th Century white coated individuals.  The wine was good too.  Another visit is due I think!

A vineyard  near Wixoe a few miles down the road no longer exists.  Here they may have have been following in the footsteps of the Romans.  Wixoe and the surrounding area are rich in remains of Roman settlement   It is  near here that Boudicca may have defeated the IXth Legion after she sacked Colchester.

Still in Suffolk but a little further away towards Bury St Edmunds (home of Greene King) are the two vineyards Ickworth House and Wyken Hall .  These are two vineyards that I have yet to visit or taste their products but are in my list of things to do in Suffolk.

So these are the Suffolk and Cambridgeshire vineyards within about 20 minutes drive of Haverhill.  Few places have so many vineyards so close!

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