The Vineyards of Hampshire Wine Festival 2015 was held at Hambledon Vineyard on Sunday 12th July 2015. The Vineyards of Hampshire Wine Festival is a small, but perfectly formed, wine festival consisting of several Hampshire Wineries, all of whom are Hampshire Sparkling Wine Producers, and local Hampshire food producers. The food producers come together through the Hampshire Fare association. The festival moves location each year and it is shared between the various Hampshire wineries that take part. I was lucky enough to attend the inaugural Vineyards of Hampshire festival held in 2014 at Jenkyn Place Vineyard which was a fantastic day out and a great success. Hambledon Vineyard (and Meonhill Wines) is the closest venue to Fareham Wine Cellar so there was no question of not attending this year.
Unfortunately Sunday 12th July 2015 was a cloudy, drizzly and windy day which probably wasn’t the best weather for visiting a wine festival and drinking Hampshire Sparkling wine in a vineyard. I had visions of drinking wine in the glorious sunshine surrounded by vines but it was a typical wet English summer’s day. However, us Brits are made of sterner stuff and, considering the weather, I would say the turnout for the Vineyards of Hampshire Wines Festival was pretty good. Fortunately there was a good size marquee to keep everyone dry, but it did get a bit crowded at points. According to a recent article in the Daily Echo, there are currently 38 vineyards in Hampshire as of July 2015, although there seems to be some dispute over the actual number at the moment. The cream of the crop, pun intended, were represented at this year’s festival.
Cottonworth – from Cottonworth near Andover
Danebury Vineyards – near Stockbridge
Exton Park Wines – from Exton
Hambledon Vineyard – at Hambledon, venue of the 2015 festival
Hattingley Valley Wines – near Medstead, Alton
Jenkyn Place Vineyard – near Bentley
Meonhill Wines – the wine is now made at Hambledon Vineyard but the vineyards located at Old Winchester Hill near Droxford
I didn’t take any notes about the wines I tasted on the afternoon but I did make a few mental notes and observations.
It was good to see newcomers, Exton Park Wines, at the wine festival. I am sure they will be a welcome addition to this select group of Hampshire Sparkling wine producers This is the first year they have released any wine under their own label, having previously sold fruit to Coates and Seely (who seem to be getting a lot of press at the moment).
We already sell both Hambledon Vineyard and Meonhill Wines in our shop, so I am a little bit biased, but I think their wines still seem to be some of the best English sparkling wines available. We are lucky they are our most local vineyards. I am particularly fond of the Meonhill Reserve Brut NV. It is developing a rather lovely golden colour with deep and complex flavours. Of all the wines tasted it was the most “Champagne-like”. I suppose this comes from having a bit of a head start over some of the other new wineries at the show – Champenoise Didier Pierson has been making wine at Meonhill since 2007 and obviously has some good stocks of aged, reserved wine to put in the blend. The Hambledon Classic Cuvée Brut is another favourite of mine, it is always a very classy, very elegant wine. It was a pity we didn’t get to try the new Hambledon Premiere Cuvée, though there was a tantalising bottle on display.
It was good to meet Caroline Stephens from Danebury Vineyards again. I think Danebury were one of the very first English sparkling producers to approach us at Fareham Wine Cellar many years ago. I still struggle with their sparkling wine, the Cossack, which is an unusual blend of Auxerrois Blanc and Rulander (Pinot Gris) but I did enjoy their Madeleine Angevine, the only non-sparkling wine of the day. Madeleine Angevine is originally from the Loire and always reminds me of a elderflower-y Riesling crossed with Pinot Gris. It is a refreshing white wine and one I think we may stock in due course.
Other mentions must go to Cottonworth and Hattingley Valley wines. Both of these producers ranges of wines are very strong the – Hattingley Valley Rosé may well have been the biggest surprise and my favourite wine of the afternoon. I know it received my colleague’s vote.
The Vineyards of Hampshire Wines Festival isn’t all about wine and there was also a range of local Hampshire food producers showing their products under the Hampshire Fare association.
Hampshire Fare has been working with local farmers and producers across Hampshire for more than twenty years and are passionate about supporting all things local.
I knew Parsonage Farm Charcuterie and Jake’s Artisan Pies from the previous year’s festival. I was under instruction with pre-orders for some of Jake’s Pork Pies and made sure I got to both their stands early on because they always sell out. There was a selection of great charcuterie from Parsonage Farm and I bought various salamis, including a great Watercress and Gin salami made with Twisted Nose Winchester Dry Gin (which uses Hampshire watercress as one of it botanicals) and a Lonzino style air-cured piece of pork loin cured with an interesting spice blend. My colleague also bought some air-cured pork loin cured with orange and gin, Twisted Nose Gin I assume.
Also in attendance was Chris Attewell of the Winchester Cocoa Company who makes fantastic handmade chocolate with many local ingredients (Summerdown Mint, Twisted Nose Gin, Winchester Char Teas etc.). He had produced a special selection of 6 chocolates which were all picked to match well with Hampshire sparkling wines. If you are interested in learning more about Chris’s chocolates he is hosting a chocolate and sparkling wine matching evening in the Autumn at Hambledon Vineyard. You can read more about matching chocolate and wines at my previous blog post.
Other producers included Lyburn Cheese, great farmhouse cheeses which I know very well, who were also selling a fantastic blue cheese from the Isle of Wight Cheese Company. I also bumped into Will Dobson of Hill Farm Juice, near Swanmore, who make some fantastic apple juices. There was a brilliant apple juice with sloe and damson which, in my humble opinion, was crying out for the addition of a bit of gin! Although the apple juices were all great on their own, I was imagining the cocktails I could make with them!
Hambledon Vineyard did a brilliant job of putting on the festival. There was also a pop-up shop (I missed on out in the Vineyards of Hampshire T-shirts), ice cream stand, a Braai with some great boerwors and a hog roast. I heard a few grumbles about the parking situation and passed at least two people having to take a break on the walk up the hill. It was a long, steep walk from the car parking to the event and there did seem to be parking available nearer the event at top of the hill, perhaps this should have been filled first. My biggest grumble were the glasses. These were the same awful plastic tulips as the previous year. I had to return the first two which were cracked and leaky. If one is serious about wine tasting they are pretty useless. The design makes it impossible to swirl the wine in the glass or really get one’s nose into it to allow one to appreciate the aromas, which is obviously a very important part of wine tasting. How about suggest purchasing some ISO tasting glasses for next year’s event so people can taste the wines properly? Give one away with each ticket. Factor them into the price. Have them personalised with a “Vineyards of Hampshire” name and logo, sell them and use them at future events just like beer festivals and other wine and food festivals do. Bought in bulk they are not expensive. Wines of this quality should be given the best chance to be appreciated. Just my two cents!
Well done to everyone organised exhibited and attended. Despite the weather it was a very good afternoon!