Bluebell Vineyard Estates

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Tours are £16 per person – this includes a full tour of the vineyard, bottling process and a guided tasting session

As the beautiful blossoms are in full bloom and the weather turning (slightly) warmer, I was intrigued to see what was happening to our English vines.

On the day super-cute Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana was born, we took a break from staring at the Lindo Wing doors (waiting for Kate, Wills & Charlotte to make an appearance), and visited Bluebell Vineyard Estates, a beautiful family run vineyard in East Sussex.

We met the lovely Colette, who manages Bluebell Vineyard. Immediately, we were whisked down to the budding vines – an exciting but also vulnerable time for the crop.

Bud break - eventually shoots will begin to grow from the buds

Bud break – shoots are beginning to grow from the buds

Originally a pig farm, Bluebell diversified into a vineyard in 2005. They planted the classic Champagne grape varieties – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier with the main aim to produce fantastic English sparkling wine with minimal use of chemicals and herbicides.

Since producing the Estate’s crisp sparkling wine, they have received three coveted Decanter & IWC Silver medals. Colette explains that Bluebell’s wines are quintessentially English – fresh and crisp with clean fruit flavours.

Before we got stuck in to a guided tasting session, Colette showed us where the wine is fermented and stored. This was great to see and, if you’ve not seen this process before, I’d highly recommend you go – most vineyards keep this hidden!

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The second fermentation – Bluebell’s sparkling wines are made by the méthode traditionelle

Bluebell are made from grapes grown in a single year, meaning every vintage is unique. Bluebell Vineyard Estates produce four delicious sparkling wines:

1. Hindleap Brut Rosé – A beautifully salmony-pink colour, this wine has a hint of berries and has a crisp, clean finish.

2. Hindleap Classic Cuvée – Produced from all three grape varieties, this has crisp, clean apple and citrus flavours.

3. Hindleap Seyval Blanc – Unusually delicious – not produced with the ‘classic’ Champagne grapes, this wine will leave you wanting more.

4. Hindleap Blanc de Blancs – Winner of the Decanter 2014 bronze award and exclusively made from Chardonnay grapes, this wine is dry and delicious.

Llanerch Vineyard, Glamorgan

Sunday lunch at Llanerch Vineyard is as picturesque as it is delicious. The Cariad Restaurant offers panoramic views of the Welsh vines.

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Who says bare isn’t beautiful?

Nestled away in the heart of the Glamorganshire countryside, Llanerch Vineyard is open for self-guided tours (a perfect way to walk off that roast beef and Yorkshire pud food baby you’ve just acquired).

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The wines produced in Llanerch are named ‘Cariad’ (meaning love in Welsh)

Llanerch Vineyard produces six different wines and has been awarded a bronze medal in the IWSC (International Wine and Spirit Competition) and a gold medal in the SWVA (South West Vineyards Association) for the sparkling rose.

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Eenie meenie miney moe…

Currently the wines are only for sale from the Vineyard shop (which also sells local produce and great little gifts).

As you may have gathered from the prominence of sparkling wines on Blotto, so the choice was fairly easy – fizz it was!

Otto never fails to sniff out a good sparkling wine

Otto never fails to sniff out a good sparkling wine

Llanerch not only produces a unique selection of wines but also has 10 bed and breakfast rooms, a bistro, a restaurant and a cookery school. So whether you fancy yourself as a wine connoisseur, a budding chef or would just like a break in the countryside, head to Llanerch Vineyard.

Black Cow Vodka- Another Great British Spirit

The Spirit Cellar Online

After David Smith sent me over his summer cup made with this amazing vodka it sparked me to re-open the bottle and have a little taste again. On the old TSCO website I gave it a rave review with lots of information on how on earth you would make vodka from milk.

To cut a very long story short (that is very easy to find from this very simple google search) its made from whey, a by-product of the cheese making process that is usually discarded. If making certain types of cheeses, a whey is formed that contains fermentable sugars that when combined with a specific type of yeast they enjoy the famous little alcohol making party together and boom you have what can only be described as a milk beer that can then be distilled. Simple eh?

I loved the concept of this product from when I very first…

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Four Legged Fancies

All I want for Christmas is.... Four Legged Fancies

All I want for Christmas is…. Four Legged Fancies

A dog isn’t just for Christmas it’s for life… and (hopefully) that includes many, many Christmases to come!

So if you fancy spoiling your furry friend this Christmas, why not check out Four Legged Fancies? They sell ‘wacky treats for waggy tails’ – homemade biccies that look good enough for a hungry owner to eat!

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Lamb Christmas trees will go down a treat with your canine

From pies to pupcakes (yes, you guessed it, cupcakes for your pup) and edgy bandanas to bow ties Four Legged Fancies has got something for every pooch.

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Otto modelling the Christmas ‘Cherry Bow’ tie

We found Four Legged Fancies at the Mary Howard Show in Hullavington, check out the shows and festivals they will be attending.

Cant make it to any? There are stockists around the country or alternatively order online to purchase your own pet presents!

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Keep your four legged friend content this Christmas

 

 

Glyndŵr Vineyard, Cowbridge

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Glyndŵr is a family run vineyard in South Wales

During a Sunday spam email sort out (why did I sign up to so many voucher sites?!), I came across an email from Glyndŵr Vineyard and it certainly wasn’t destined for the trash.

“Grape picking, free lunch, free wine!!”

As a useless gardener and a first time grape picker, I was slightly apprehensive about my stalk snipping abilities but the promise of a new experience and free wine was too good to miss.

Richard Norris, the owner of the vineyard, welcomed everyone and gave a brief lesson on which grapes to pick and which to leave.

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Buckets at the ready! Richard leads the way to the vines

Each volunteer was given a bucket and secateurs (experienced pickers came ready prepared).

People from all walks of life came together to help Richard and his son Joe with the harvest. Richard was kind, welcoming and extremely grateful for the gallant team effort.

Glyndŵr’s wine is delicious and stocked in local Sainsbury’s and Waitrose but the vineyard’s most recent bulk order came from the NATO Summit 2014 (which was held in Celtic Manor, Newport).

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Each bucket full was emptied into a crate ready for pressing

Each vine was bursting with fruit, ready for harvesting. We started off with picking Reichensteiner and Madeleine Angevine (a white grape originating from the Loire Valley, France). These grapes go into Glyndŵr’s medium dry white wine.

Once all of the white grapes had been picked, we moved on to the red. The red grapes (Rondo and Triomphe d’Alsace) tasted sweet and juicy – you’d never know they were wine grapes!

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The warm summer has resulted in extra sweet grapes

Richard and Joe couldn’t believe the abundance of fruit and put it down to the great summer weather we have experienced (even in Wales!).

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This year Glyndŵr harvested over 10 tonnes of grapes

With our hands stained and sticky, everyone was invited to freshen up and come for a home-made buffet style lunch all prepared by Richard’s wife, Sue.

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Sue put on a beautiful home-made buffet for all of the volunteers

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Lunch was a great opportunity to chat to the other pickers

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Richard made sure everyone tried at least one glass of their delicious wine

The whole experience that Richard and Joe provided was extremely enjoyable. It’s quite amazing to think that we have helped with produce wine (thats fit for Heads of State, no less).

This year’s harvest will be bottled by June 2015, so we look forward to trying them then!

So if you’re looking for a new experience, a chance to meet some great people and to help a lovely family produce their delicious wine, follow Glyndŵr on Facebook and sign up to their mailing list to keep in the know.

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Unfortunately Otto couldn’t make it, so here’s a photo of Glyndŵr’s llama

Tinwood Estate, West Sussex

This year’s grape harvest is set to be a juicy one. So before the the vines became bare, Blotto hit the road to visit a couple of English vineyards.

The vineyard: Tinwood Estate, Chichester, West Sussex

The owner: Art Tukker, 29,  second-generation farmer and owner of the vineyard. Having graduated from University, Art planted all 90,000 individual vines in 2007 when he was just 21.

The wine: Tinwood Estate’s 55 acres of vines solely produces sparkling wine – and sparkle it does. With the traditional grapes: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, Art produces three equally delicious English Sparkling Wines.

Tinwood delivers in both style and quality

Tinwood delivers in both quality and style

Since diversifying from iceburg lettuces, Tinwood has grown from strength to strength. The delicious wine can be found at local restaurants and the famous Goodwood Estate.

Art explains that Tinwood Estate is blessed with stony flint topsoil and pure chalk underneath. This offers good drainage while retaining the heat of the day’s sun. Chalk not only adds fantastic freshness Art’s wines but it’s porous nature means it absorbs the rainfall, which provides water for the vines during the summer.

The vines are positioned facing South West (the direction of the wind). This angle also allows the sun to ripen one side in the morning and the other in the afternoon.

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Art used a German planting machine to ensure each vine was straight

The time of harvest is weather dependent, explains Art. If the temperature drops below 0°C for more than 15 minutes, a devastating 70% of the crop can be lost.

Art performs a ‘grape analysis’ on each vine to ensure the flavour has reached its maximum potential. Once harvested, the grapes are taken to Ridgeview Estate where they are processed and bottled.

 

The tasting

Tinwood Estate Blanc de Blancs 2010 (12% vol)

This delicate sparkling wine has a lovely stream of bubbles. Produced with 100% white grapes, this is the driest of the three wines. Packed with fresh flavour, the first sip is like biting into a juicy green apple. The finish is clean and unique. It’s a quintessentially English wine.

Tinwood Estate Brut 2010 (13% vol)

Made up of 50% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and 20% Pinot Meunier, this wine contains the classic Champagne blend. This wine has rich depth and character. Great for celebrations as it pairs wonderfully with canapés. This would make the perfect Christmas wine.

Fancy visiting the Tinwood Estate?

Art and his partner Judy put on vineyard tours and tastings every day (except Sundays) for £14.95 per person.

Otto sniffs out a good deal - tours include two full glasses of Tinwood fizz

Otto can sniff out a good deal – tours include two full glasses of Tinwood fizz