Friday, September 15, 2006

English Wine

Listening to Radio 4 today I heard a debate on the increasing alcohol content of European and New World wines and whether or not it affects the flavour and intensity of the finished product. The consensus is that it does, and not necessarily in a good way. And over the past few weeks there has been a lot of talk about English wines as speculation over the rate of global warming leads to the conclusion that England may soon have a perfect wine-growing climate.

At the Organic Food Awards I sat at the same table as English wine producer Will Davenport, of Davenport Wines, and as it happened we were drinking the Davenport Vineyard 2005 Horsmonden Dry Wine to accompany the goat's cheese and garden leaves starter. The wine was superb. If I'd been blind tasting I certainly wouldn't have guessed that it was an English wine. I'm not an expert on wine in any sense, but I like to drink it and I know what I like. And I liked the Davenport wine enormously. If I'd been pushed to say where it came from, without knowing, I'd have guessed at the Loire, or possibly the Sonoma Valley. But England? Surely not.

The 2005 is selling fast but there is some still available from the Davenport website. Get it while you can.

The week prior to the Awards lunch, I stopped off at a'Beckett's vineyard near Devizes in Wiltshire. The wine was delicious; crisp, dry and aromatic. Paul Langham talked us through his philosophy which in essence is to 'concentrate on the grapes and you will make good wine'. Paul and his wife, Lynn, run the vineyard alongside day jobs and their young family which must make for an interesting life. Plans are afoot to build additional facilities on site, including a bottling plant, which will enable the Langhams to have more control over the winemaking process.

There are several websites with information on English wine and its producers. and English Wine Producers are a good place to start. I'm off to begin research in earnest - there are a dozen or so bottles of good English wine on the rack to be going on with.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Bordeaux Quay

The Soil Association's Organic Food Awards presentation ceremony was held last Friday at Bordeaux Quay in Bristol with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall handing out the awards to the best organic producers and retailers in a wide range of categories.

Bordeaux Quay is a fantastic place to visit, both to eat and to admire the restaurant itself. The building, created from one of the old sheds on the harbourside, is a superb blend of old and new. The attention to detail is striking and immediately evident in both the design and layout of the space and the materials within it. Having eaten lunch there I can safely say that the same sense of detail is applied to the food.

As you'd expect for a venture in eco-gastronomy the building is an environmentally conscious one: there is no air-conditioning, just well-planned natural ventilation, and the use of light complements the harmonious interior perfectly. How long will it be until every new or converted building combines beauty with being environmentally sound? If Bordeaux Quay shows anything, it is that buildings and interiors are more so much more impressive when emphasis is placed on the quality of materials and workmanship rather than fleeting fashions or trends.

Barny Haughton, chef proprietor of Quartier Vert and the driving force behind Bordeaux Quay, has insisted on a sustainable building policy with a focus on recycling, reusing and minimising the amount of waste going to landfill. This approach connects with the emphasis on local food, which will be largely sourced within 50 miles of the restaurant, and on food education for the community.

In addition to the restaurant there is also a brasserie, deli, bar,bakery and cookery school, all under one roof. It's a testament to this the care taken with this building that the new blends almost seamlessly with the old, so that you have to look carefully to see where different components end and begin. The result is refreshing. Kevin McCloud would no doubt be in seventh heaven. If you're eating there, you might well be too.