With some many sparkling wines and Champagnes to choose from, which would be your favourite picks for a festive drinks party or as an aperitif on Christmas Day?
For my festive wine recommendations for Christmas Day, I think I’ll play a classic game here and head for Champagne. I’ve always been a fan of the fuller-bodies styles, so Bollinger would be on the hit list, as would Krug subject to lottery winnings! One thing I have tried recently and been very impressed with is sparkling Shiraz (Magpie Estate, Australia). This has enough body to cope with a decent roast dinner, whilst still having all the fun of bubbles…See our wine list for our extensive range of Champagnes and sparkling wines
With the festive season well under way, which varieties of wine are great for mulling and is there a special ingredient you would include?
I guess with mulled wine I would just choose a full-bodied red and keep the price down as you are distorting the flavour so much. Oranges and cinnamon would go into my mix, but I have to say that mulled wine is not quite for me…
Which wines would you be pleased to be given as a Christmas gift?
I’m hopelessly addicted to Riesling, especially that from the Mosel Valley in Germany, so I guess anybody bringing a bottle of Haag, Prüm, or Von Schubert Maximin Grünhaus would be especially welcome! In the wine business, the pros take estate-bottled olive oil to give as gifts. If you’re looking for more gift inspiration, our gift vouchers can be emailed to you instantly. Browse our selection
Are there specific wines or grape varieties that you’d recommend with the traditional Christmas turkey with all the trimmings?
I usually serve red and white concurrently with “event” meals like this, so my red choice would be Pinot Noir-led. This year, I will be pouring Gevrey-Chambertin En Jouise from Domaine Harmand-Geoffoy in the very heart of Burgundy with all that earthy, elegant red fruit intensity. For white wine would head to my beloved Riesling grape, and I think that maybe something from the Alsace region in France would fit the bill admirably. Try a producer such as Weinbach or Zind Humbrecht.
Most Christmas lunches finish with a Christmas pudding, so what dessert wines would you recommend to match?
Tawny Port is a time-honoured classic – try something like Krohn’s 20-year old Tawny. Australian Liqueur Muscat is another choice. However, this year, I’ll be serving the pud with Argyros Estate Vinsanto from Santorini, Greece. The grapes were sun-dried for around 10 days prior to the fermentation starting, then aged for four years in oak. Trust me – it’s sensational… Browse our fortified and Port selection we serve by the glass
Cheers and have a very merry Christmas
Director of Wine
Our spa team have put together some top ten spa tips this winter that will help your skin through the party season as well as some great spa offers this December and January.
1. Drink plenty of water each day. Hot squash is great alternative for tea and coffee
2. Use an oil at night such as Darphin’s aromatic face oils under face cream to help combat tight skin
3. Prepare your skin for the party season using Darphin’s Age Defying Dermabrasion followed by Darphin’s camellia mask for radiance
4. If all the Christmas stress is getting too much try using some lavender oil on your pillow to comfort and calm your mind
5. For fresh looking skin, make sure you remove your make-up each evening before going to bed
6. Our therapists’ top tip is use Darphin’s Purifying Balm at night to detox and cleanse skin
7. We recommend using coconut oil as a great natural alternative to a conditioning hair mask
8. When your shoulders and lower back are achy, try using Aroma Home herb pillows
9. As a real treat, why not spend the day with us at The Vineyard Spa and relax be pampered?
10. Even though the sun may not be as strong and shining every day during the winter months, it’s still important to apply an spf cream on top of your moisturiser to prevent the UVA and UVB rays from damaging your skin.
We have some great last minute offers that you can take advantage of:
1. 20% off our Luxury Spa Day on 16th to 19th December 2014. Visit our spa days page to discover more
2. As a Christmas special, why not treat yourself to a 25 minute chocolate and orange scrub for just £30. It’s a full body exfoliation with the delicious smell of Jaffa cakes. Your skin will be left feeling soft and smooth perfect for the party season or before applying self tan.
Only available on 16th -19th and 24th, and 26th December. Discover more about our treatments
3. January Spa Day Offer
Relax after the hectic festive season and enjoy a half day spa day for two for £120 saving £20. This could also be a great Christmas present if you’re still looking for a pampering treat. Discover more
To book any of the above, please contact the spa team on 01635 589415.
We hope you’ve found our top ten spa tips useful. To purchase any of the Darphin products mentioned above, please pop into The Vineyard Spa.
Have a Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year
With some many wines to choose from and enjoy over the festive season, Romain Bourger has selected five of his favourites.
Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs, Napa Valley, 2010
One of the festive wines for 2015 recommended by Romain is from Schramsberg estate. Owned by J. Davies Estate and established back in 1862, it was one of the pioneering vineyard to produce a sparkling wine using the second fermentation in the bottle, such as Champagne. Blanc de Blancs means white from white and is made from Chardonnay grape. The wine shows a creamy foam and delicate bubbles. The nose has notes of ripe stone fruit, toast, fresh almond and citrus, the palate is creamy with a fresh finish. Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs gained international recognition in 1972 when President Nixon served the wine at the “Toast to Peace” in Beijing, China.
Peter Michael Winery, L’Après Midi, Knights Valley, 2013
Sir Peter Michael long had a great interest for wine, he established his winery in Sonoma in 1982 and released his first wine in 1987. L’Après Midi, the French for “the afternoon”, is a Sauvignon Blanc based wine blended with a touch of Sémillon which was first produced in 1991. It undergoes its fermentation in oak barrel bringing to the wine a hint of smokiness and a riche texture. It develops aromas of ripe tropical fruit such as passion fruit and fresh mango with a touch of pink grapefruit. The palate has a lovely minerality very well balanced with the oak character. This wine is very well suited for a poached Salmon with a Hollandaise sauce.
Langhe, Poderi Colla, Bricco del Drago, Piedmont, Italy, 2008
A wine made from a local grape called Nebbiolo, a very delicate and light coloured red wine. This Langhe is a very juicy wine full of plums, red cherry as well as a touch of violet petals. The palate is delicate and perfumed with soft and silky tannins. It shows more dark fruits such as blackcurrant and blackberry with a touch of pepper and leather. This wine is a more wintery wine and goes well with game such has a fillet of venison or cheese.
Tio Pepe, Palomino Fino, Jerez, Spain, NV
Unfortunately, sherry is not used enough in gastronomy, however, it is an incredible style of wine because of its diversity and versatility with food. This light and dry Sherry made from Palomino grape is perfect for an aperitif due to its citrus aromas bringing a lively freshness. Its hint of nuttiness makes it well suited for veloutés and soups. Also, a richer style such as an Oloroso or a sweet Pedro Ximene would work very well with cheese or a Christmas pudding.
Tokaji, Disznoko 5 Puttonyos, Tokaj, Hungary, 2007
Since 1992 Disznoko is part of Axa Millesime. This sweet wine is made in a very traditional way. It is produced from a local grape called Furmint. This great pudding wine develops aromas of cooked tropical fruit such as pineapple, mango as well as some acacia honey and a great acidity. The balance is great and the wine shows an amazing balance. This is a fantastic wine to have with Christmas pudding or a trifle.
Monday 1st December – Christmas Fair at Elcot Park
9.30am – 5pm
With over 40 stalls selling unique and affordable there are gifts for all the family, including a wide variety of gifts, stocking fillers, beautiful clothes and jewellery, engraved glassware, festive flowers, wrapping paper and ribbon, creative cards, country gifts, delicious cheese, scrumptious cakes and original liqueurs and lots more. The event is in aid of locally based Pelican Cancer Foundation. Parking is free. Entry is £5
Wednesday 3rd December – Wine School – Bubbles Galore at The Vineyard
6.30pm to 8pm
Begin the festive season with a sparkling wine school. Discover more and indulge in Champagne and other popular sparkling wines from around the world.
£30 per person
Friday 5th December – Taittinger Champagne Dinner
Now recognised as one of the greatest Champagne Houses, Taittinger has been producing Champagne since 1932. Join us for a lively evening and enjoy a five course dinner with matching Taittinger Champagnes from a variety of different styles and vintages.
£120 per person
Sunday 7th December – Christmas Crafts and Carols at Shaw House
11am – 4pm
Visit the craft fair and get your Christmas gifts sorted with some locally made, soaps, jewellery, cupcakes and candles. Get in the festive spirit with a Christmas carols sing-along led by Speenhamland Ladies Choir. People young and old will be delighted to hear that they have a special guest making an appearance, yes Santa will be popping in at the end of the children’s Christmas parties, after some fun and games, to hand out some presents. £1 Adults, free to children
Monday 8th December – Christmas Ladies’ Lunch
12pm to 3pm
Another event in December not to be missed. Begin the Christmas festivities in style and enjoy a glass of Champagne, a three-course lunch with two matching wines and a glass of bubbles to finish.
£60 per person
Friday 12th December – Hungerford Victorian Extravaganza
5pm – 10pm
One of the events in Berkshire that is definitely one to attend.The day starts with local dignitaries in Victorian garb, braving the elements, and eating a large breakfast on the steps of the Town Hall. Throughout the day a mixture of all sorts of stalls will begin to form throughout the streets. By 5pm the town is alive with steam engines, organs, side stalls, street entertainment, the big wheel and other fairground rides.
Crowds can see Punch and Judy shows, stilt walkers, clowns, jugglers and for the children. The shops will be open with their staff in Victorian dress, some giving out mulled wine and mince pies. Many local charities will be there with a variety of stalls, tombolas and even hot soup.
At 7pm the Grand Parade starts at the North end of the town and comes up the High Street with the mighty steam engines, the skirl of the pipes, the triumphant blast of the brass bands, all the street performers and, as a bonus, Father Christmas along with the year’s Carnival Queen. After this there follows the prize giving for the best dressed shop windows, the best dressed shop assistants, and the best dressed stall holders.
At 9pm, the evening’s activities will be brought to a close by the firework finale and for those not wishing to head home, many pubs and restaurants are busy well into the night.
Free entry and free parking is available at Charnham Park and is clearly marked from all directions.
Friday 19th – Sunday 21st December – Swan Lake at Arlington Arts Centre
7.30pm (Saturday – 2.30pm)
Join Ballet Theatre UK with their spectacular new production of this timeless classic Swan Lake. This immortal tale tells of a Princess held captive as a swan by the spell of an evil magician, a spell that only can be broken if the Prince swears true love to her.
Tickets £17 (concessions £15, family £50)
Monday 29th December – Festive Family Fun Raceday at Newbury Racecourse
See out the year in style at at Festive Raceday at Newbury Racecourse! Racegoers can enjoy a festive atmosphere with lots to see and do with fantastic racing, including the Grade 1 Betfred Goals Galore Challow Novice’s Hurdle and six other thrilling contests. Off-the-track there will more competition with the Festive Family Treasure Hunt and live music from the house band, Global Cafe Music.
Prices from £14.40
I know I may well say this every year, but this year’s wine festival at The Vineyard seemed to surpass all previous years in terms of just about everything…food, wine, and many masterclasses aimed at helping our customers get the very best out of a bottle of wine. Our suppliers stepped up to the mark and provided a selection of truly stunning wines really indicative of our list at The Vineyard.
First off was our annual wine festival dinner. Two matched wines per course hence groaning tables of wine glasses (all Riedel of course) ready to showcase the bottles. Hard to pinpoint specifics, however feedback that I received thought that the Grüner Veltliner Steinsetz (Schloss Gobelsburg) was the star white of the evening, whilst the Mac Forbes Pinot Noir from Australia and the venison course was the pairing of the evening. The Peter Michael L’Esprit des Pavots held its ground with the cheese course also, even up against Tawny Port! To buy these wines, please contact me, James Hocking, on 01635 589414 or email me: email@example.com
Following that, our Saturday tasting was well-subscribed, and with an ever expanding group of suppliers, the room was full of wine. Newcomers to our tasting this year were Berkmann Wines, with a decent range of Italian and Argentinean bottles, plus Clark Foyster Wines, showing a solid range from Australia, France and Portugal. We had over 150 wines open, covering all the major viticultural regions of the world. All together, 10 of our top wine suppliers helped make this event a success.
And the wine, I most wanted to take home? Champagne Taittinger kindly gave us a couple of bottles of their flagship Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs. Pure hedonistic pleasure…frankly the customers were lucky to get a look in!!
We actually have a Taittinger Champagne dinner coming up on 5th December and there are still a few places left. Please see our website for the menu and more details. It’s sure to be a great evening. Our sparkling bubbles galore wine school is also taking place on 3rd December. We hope to see you at one of our up and coming events.
Director of Wine
The History of Brasseries
The word ‘brasserie’ actually means ‘brewery’ in French. In 1864, Frédéric Bofinger, a brewer from Alsace in northeastern France (the region that border my own, Franche-Comté), made his way to Paris and opened a tiny bar in the heart of the Marais and Fauboug Saint-Antoine area. It served little more than draft beer and sauerkraut. At that time, numerous people were moving to Paris from war-torn Alsace in search of work, so there was a ready market. Beer on tap was unheard of in Paris back then and the quality of the sauerkraut was second to none. The combination took the city by storm and in no time brassieres were springing up all over Paris. The rest of France soon followed, and I think, for this reason, Bofinger could rightly claim to be the father of the Parisian brasserie. What started as a smoky bar filled with Alsatian refugees grew into a magnificent dining room with polished wood, gleaming brass and a stain-glass dome.
Now Fashionable Hotspots
Today, brasseries are fashionable hotspots where politicians continue to rub shoulders with artists- but there is more to them than glamour. Brasseries are popular because the food they serve is homely, heart-warming and delicious. You can eat a simple sandwich or enjoy a grand repas, and they will often serve everything from early breakfasts right through to late suppers in the small hours. Among the famous brasseries in Paris are: Bofinger, La Coupole and Brasseries Lipp, to name by a few. However, no matter where you are, you will find a good meal – and you won’t have to pay a fortune for it either.
Some brasseries in Paris will be modern and chic and some laden with so much history they are practically national monuments. But choose carefully – there are plenty on main streets, but the best ones are often tucked away down side streets and hidden behind porchways.
How many restaurants can boast the illustrious likes of Ernst Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Salvador Dali, Henry Miller, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse among their clientele? Well, La Coupole can. Few people take a trip to Paris without visiting this renowned brasserie at least once.
Executive Head Chef
Team Building Activities
When planning a team building away day during the autumn and winter months, there are plenty of activities that will get your colleagues in the mood for a challenge. Outdoor activities are often weather dependent, but you can’t beat getting out in the fresh air and participating in a team challenge.
In the Newbury area, you can choose from outdoor sports such as clay pigeon shooting, archery, 4 x 4 off roading and the Italian job adventure to name just a few. All are just a short drive away from The Vineyard hotel in Stockcross making it an ideal five star meeting venue in Berkshire.
A full day’s shooting at nearby Royal Berkshire Shooting School costs from £149 per person plus vat. For this, each person will receive expert tuition catered to your level of experience, you will also receive up to 150 cartridges and clays, gun hire and all the insurances you need. A refreshing lunch is also provided and the School organises a post lunch competition involving the whole team. To finish the day, there is a prize giving with refreshments. If you can’t spare a whole day then a half day costs from just £99 per person plus vat.
The ‘Italian Job Adventure’ otherwise known as the ‘Parmesan Job’ is one of the most fun, light hearted team building activities you’ll find to get all your colleagues motivated. Each team will get their very own mini for the day and will the objective of completing a customised ‘Italian Job’ style adventure by following a trail of clues and completing a range of enthralling challenges along the way. The types of challenges include breaking into a hidden van and cracking the safe whilst keeping under cover. Photographs will be taken along the way, which you’ll get to keep to remember the day by.
Whether you choose to do a full day or half day activity, your team will feel energised helping your meeting that day or the next be as productive as possible. With five great meeting spaces here at The Vineyard, combining team building activities with a meeting is certainly something to consider when planning your next corporate get together.
Spectacular Fireworks Display at Newbury Racecourse
Saturday 1st November – 5.30pm
Newbury Racecourse will be hosting a charity fireworks display this Saturday joined by Roary the Lion and friends. There will also be other entertainment taking place during the evening.
Tickets are available from a number of shops around Newbury & Thatcham.
Under fives are free. Children and Adults £5 on the night of the display. Save and buy your tickets in advance.
Gates open at 5.30pm and the fireworks start at 7.30pm.
For further details on where to buy tickets or about the display visit their website
Wine School – All about US Wines
Wednesday 5th November – 6.30pm to 8pm
When we think of wine from the US, California often springs to mind, but there are many other states who produce good quality wine. Let us take you on a journey across America tasting many different styles of US wine from New York, Oregon, Georgia and Washington.
£30 per person
Twelfth Night at The Watermill Theatre
Wednesday 12th to 15th November – 7.30pm (6.30pm on 15th)
One of the events in Berkshire this November that’s definitely worth attending. The Young Company is delighted to present Shakespeare’s most famous comedy celebrating love and life in all its excesses and absurdity. Anarchy and music abound in this, the most complicated of love triangles.
Tickets – £11
Please see the website to purchase tickets and for more details
The Vineyard Wine Festival Weekend
14th November – Wine Festival Dinner – £120 per person
7pm arrival for 7.30pm
We begin the Wine Festival Weekend with a fantastic five course dinner matched with two superb wines per course selected from wineries who will be showcasing their wines for you to taste the following day. Join us for this special dinner and enjoy great food, wine and company. View menu
Five course dinner with two matched wines per course and Schramsberg Californian sparkling wine aperitif – £120 per person
15th November – Wine Festival Tasting – £25 per person
12pm to 4pm
Join us for our fifth annual wine festival with over 150 wines available to taste from suppliers around the globe. Have fun and deepen your wine knowledge, chat with suppliers and winemakers, and attend our masterclasses throughout the day. Taste and enjoy wines from Peter Michael Winery, Schramsberg, Rudd Estate, Champagne Taittinger, Boutinot, Les Caves de Pyrene and more.
Wine ticket – £25 per person
Masterclass ticket – £5 per person
Please call us on 01635 589407 to book and discover more online
Stockfest Christmas Craft Fair at Stockcross
Saturday 15th November 11am – 4pm
Stockfest Christmas Craft Fair to be held at Sutton Hall, Church Road, Stockcross, Newbury, Berkshire, RG20 8LN. Pop along to the Christmas gift fair with over 20 stalls selling great festive gifts for all the family. There will be refreshments suitable for everyone available such as sandwiches, Christmas cakes, mince pies and drinks.
The bet365 Hennessy Festival at Newbury Racecourse
27th to 29th November
The biggest race weekend in the winter social calendar is almost up on us. Get your tickets to one of the most anticipated events in racing, the world famous Gold Hennessy cup, which incorporates the competitive spirit, history and elegance of the sport in three days of thrilling horseracing.
The bet 365 Listed Intermediate Hurdle as well as the feature race, The bet365 Novices’ Chase. Tickets are available from £14.40
The Grade 2 Fuller’s London Pride Novices’ Chase along with a strong supporting card of races.
Tickets are available from £20.
Feel the anticipation in the air on the final day of the festival which features the historic Hennessy Gold Cup and the bet365 Long Distance Hurdle.
Tickets are available from £30
The Three Day Festival ticket is available from just £45 for the Grandstand Enclosure and £55 for Premier.
For further details see their website
Switching on the Christmas Lights at Newbury
Sunday 30th November
One of the last events in Berkshire this November for all the family. Join Santa to make Newbury light up with the switching of the festive lights. There will be a parade which starts at 5:30pm as well as some traditional treats such as a German bratwurst sausage stall and some mouth-watering mulled wine.
There will be live music throughout the day and stalls selling some quirky Christmas gifts, and at 6.30pm the Christmas lights switch-on will take place on Wharf Street.
There will be hot food, sweets and doughnuts available in the Market Place so come along and enjoy the fun and bring the whole family!
For further details see their website
Well, with just a few weeks to go to our annual Wine Festival on 15th November, I have written the tasting book and compiled the wines to be poured on the day. I have to say that I’m really pleased with the line-up this year, with real diversity and quality so here’s a little “heads-up” on some of the delights in store… Tickets for the Wine Festival are just £25 and masterclass tickets are £5 per class. View masterclasses and suppliers
We do also have a five course dinner with matching wines to open the annual wine festival on the evening of 14th November. It’s going to be a very lively and entertaining affair with suppliers each giving an insight into the wines they’ve chosen to match with the dishes. We are filling up fast for this event, but do still have places left if you would like to join us. View menu
As you would expect, California will be well-covered on the day, showcasing the best of the true North Coast region (taking in Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties) and wines such as Waterstone, Ferrari-Carano and Donelan Family will be on tasting. Donelan has been our success story of 2014 with just beautiful Chardonnay, Roussanne and Syrah. Peter Michael Winery will have a selection of Pinot Noir plus the Knights Valley flagship Les Pavots on the stand.
Turning to Europe, brilliant winemaker Dermot Sugrue (ex-Nyetimber) will have his Goring Brut to show you just how good English fizz can be, however Champagne Taittinger will doubtless want to argue that point with their collection of wines open, plus I will stand my corner with Schramsberg Vineyards! Germany is covered by the wines of Weegmuller and Huesgen whilst Spain has Lopez de Heredia – surely the most classic Rioja you will find. On other stands South Africa, Italy, France and Austria are all showcased. This is truly a world wine festival!
And just to finish, we’ll be opening a selection of Sherries this year, plus a pair of beautiful Madeiras, the perfect Christmas day post prandial.
The Wine Festival begins at 12pm and finishes at 4pm. There will be over 150 wines to taste throughout the day and you’ll also be able to chat to WSET experts about the WSET courses we offer here. Don’t forget, your £25 wine ticket can be redeemed against a case of wine over the value of £250 and we also have a special lunch menu available in our restaurant for just £25 per person. To view the menu, please visit our website.
See you there…
Director of Wine
The Vineyard Cellars