Chateau Cambs? Yeah, you read right we have a few cork popping vineyards in MuddyCambs
How the hell have I only just realised that it’s English wine week this week, and we’re already half way through it! Possibly due to the fact that I drown in the stuff most nights after 7 O’clock up but it’s here until Sun 4 June 2017, and what does that mean to you and I? It means it’s as good an opportunity as any to learn a little more about vino, celebrate our local wine producers and provides an excellent excuse to try a few more bottles. Yeah, you’ve read that right, there are two amazing vineyards here on our door step in good old Cambridgeshire. The gorgeous Chilford Hall Vineyard and Winery and the lesser known, but beautifully formed, Elysian Fields Vineyard in the heart of the Fens.
Let’s get to the facts
1/ Priorities please, first let’s raise a glass of English Sparkling Wine to Brit scientist* Christopher Merret, who put the fizz into flat old wine way back in 1662.
2/ The Romans — those suave, sophisticates — loved quaffing a glass or two of Sancerre, feet-up watching some Gladitorial blood-fest. Brutal true, but they did drag us ale-swilling Celts kicking and screaming into the first century by planting vines right up to Lincolnshire.
3/ Drink local my friends, drink local. Us booze-loving Brits slurp around 816 million bottles of wine annually, only 1% of that is English or Welsh wine, thanks for that titbit Danbury Wines. But times they are a changin’…
4/ English Sparkling Wine is the new Champagne, it’s official: get this from voice of yoof Vice. Not convinced? Well, sorry but the experts are. Chilford Hall has been in the Alper Family since 1966 when it was bought by the late Sam Alper, designer of the famous Sprite caravan and founder of the Little Chef chain of
restaurants. The first vines were planted in 1972 and the vineyard has gone on to produce award winning sparkling white and rose – it’s now one of the oldest and largest in East Anglia. Don’t take my word for it, the winery holds wine tasting and tours through the summer months and has a shop and bistro in the stuning grounds of the Hall with is electic collection of art, sculpture and architectural oddities on display in the gardens.
5/ And talking of champers, did you know that Southern England’s soil — is it pretentious if I say terroir? Just love the semantics of that word — is similar to the Champagne region, especially now we actually have a summer. Get digging, because the same chalk seam runs from Northern France across the Channel to the Home Counties.
6/ Cambridgeshire is a hot bed of all things English Wine. Exhibit A) June’s inaugural Cambridge Club with a banquet crafted by local independent food and drink traders with live music thrown in as well. Exhibit B) Cambridge Wine Fair, Sun 24 Sept, to include may of the counties finest wine merchants. Exhibit C) The Cambridgeshire Wine School run regular wine tastings throughout the year held at various locations around Cambridge. A popular one is their Champagne and Sparkling Wine evenings, which include English delights – the next one planned in on Tue 11 July.
7/ To end, a random yet true fact. London’s East End wasn’t always hipsters, high rises and baggy-trousered Nineties boybands. Yup way back circa 1660, a certain Lady Batten grew grapes on her country estate in erm, Walthamstow producing a “very good” red wine according to Pepys. Puts the term Grand
Crew Cru in a totally different light, and Château Walthamstow? Come on, it has a ring.
Chilford Hall Vineyard, Balsham Rd, Cambridge CB21 4LE, chilfordhall.co.uk
Elysian Field Vineyard, Bedwell Hey Farm, Little Thetford , Ely CB6 3HJ, elysianfieldsvineyard.co.uk
*OK history pedants, I know this is decades before The Union but saying ‘English’ twice in a sentence sounds shoddy, a’right.