On Friday we strolled along a local festive light strewn street and made our way to a wine cellar for a tasting event.
I am now about to tell you something that will stun you, dear readers from California and France. In Britain we do make wine and sparkling at that. There you are, our secret is out. With the warmer climate we have been having vineyards are popping up in the South of the UK like rabbits, from Cornwall to Kent. We aren't knocking out rubbish either. Our local vineyard has made a sparking wine that beat Bollinger in blind tastings, so I was told.
Whilst sampling the local bubbly I listened to the benefits of our local soil and climate on vine growing. Apparently we are 70 miles from Champagne as the crow flies and our subsoil, being limestone, is similar. The Champagne subsoil dips under the channel then pops up at the South Downs of England or thereabouts and the South Downs themselves provide a rain shadow. This means that, to my absolute delight I live in the goldilocks zone of wine making in Britain, or one of them.
I made numerous notes as I drank. It appears, from my scrawls, that the dimness of the room combined with several half glasses of sparkling caused me to become quite deluded in my Mr Him. I can think of no other explanation for my last notation.
Once the buds burst in the spring the vines must be protected from frost, which in the UK is still a risk in April. This means dedicated people go out at night once the thermometer reaches 1 degree and light tin pots of paraffin wax walking them down the rows so as the warm air mixes over the vines and frost does not settle. I can tell you, dear reader, that if those dedicated peoples didn't do so I certainly would be tempted to heat up the air around those said dedicated peoples with a bit of nagging.
The buds have to survive until June. Then, as summer arrives, the flower emerges along with tennis whites. Wimbledon is upon us and we know what happens then, rain. Wine making in Britain is not a venture to take on lightly.
At one time, in France, it was thought sparkling wine was the work of the Devil and a monk called Don Perignon was tasked with removing the bubbles that had formed naturally. However across the channel, London was reveling in sparkling wine and artificially creating bubbles by adding yeast. This caused the continentals to go back to Don Perignon and say 'Hey, Monksy, put the bubbles back, we were wrong,' or something rather like that.
Rain, frost and tin pots of paraffin aside our local vineyard has produced award winning sparkling wine, including the 2010 best sparkling wine in the world.
During the evening we tried very generous measures, half glass each time, of 6 different vintages and grapes. With each pouring the room got louder and conversations more bubbly. English reserve was set aside and the cellar became a venue of first names and handshakes, some laughter too.
PS I'm making use of my animal print scarf, fashionably long and tassled, to adorn my jean clad knees