Category Archives: Wine and Spirits

My Trip to Bordeaux

Bordeaux blog My Trip to BordeauxI had the great opportunity to travel to Bordeaux for the first time this year, at the end of October. I think most of us have this idea of Bordeaux wines being expensive and with reason; most of the wines we see on wine list are, but are mainly Grand Cru Classe (Great Growth) and they only represent less than 5% of the total production in Bordeaux.

The goal of this wonderful trip was for us to discover smaller and lesser known areas of this fabulous wine region as such as Saint Emilion satellites (like Montagne Saint Emilion, Saint Georges Saint Emilion…)

It started with a course at the Bordeaux Wine School for a tutorial covering history, geography, the different varietals and the Controlled Appellation areas.This followed with a walking tour of this amazing city; and a lunch at a local restaurant with a tasting of dry white wine made from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.

We then drove to Chateau Le Grand Verdus (Bordeaux AC) for a visit and tasting. A beautiful, family owned estate producing exceptional wines around £10.00, their Grande Reserve (best cuvee) is around £15.00. After this interesting discovery we went to Cadillac to an estate owned by a Lebanese family, Chateau Biac. We started with a presentation of the Cotes de Bordeaux AC followed by a sweet wine presentation.

We later went to their cellar and to dinner. Starting with an aperitif and canapés (the highlight being a toast of peanut and dried apricot) on their terrace with a view on the Garonne river and a beautiful sunset. At the dinner we had the chance to taste some incredible wines as well as some lovely food mixing French and Lebanese cuisine.

The next day, we drove to Pomerol to visit one of the greatest estates of the area, Chateau Gazin (one of the first top Bordeaux wines I tasted was Chateau Gazin 1988) where we tasted 2005 and 2011 vintages. We also had the opportunity to see some of the best Chateau like Petrus and Lafleur Petrus.

On the way to Saint Emilion we also saw Evangile, Cheval Blanc, Figeac and Angelus before arriving at Chateau La Couspaude where another surprising tasting awaited us. After a very good lunch there and a quick, but wet visit of Saint Emilion we left for one of its satellites, Puisseguin Saint Emilion.

We arrived at a 55 hectares organic estate called Chateau Guibeau where again the quality was impressive and yet again the prices of wines were around £10 to £12. The rest of the day was spent in Pessac-Leognan, in the Graves region (named after the very gravelly soil of the vineyard) at Chateau La Louviere, property of Andre Lurton. The visit started with a little explanation of the Chateau followed by a tour of the winery and the impressive cellar. We moved to a great tasting showcasing about 20 different dry white and red wines with a fantastic dinner later (where we tasted a Chateau La Louviere white from 1994, incredible!).

For the last day we drove up to Chateau la Lagune, in the Medoc district were again we drove past Latour, Pichon Comtesse de Lalande and Margaux to arrive to this beautiful old Chateau. There we again tasted about 10 different red wines from several areas. We enjoyed our best lunch of the stay there cooked by a great young Chef, she specially cooked Joel Robuchon’s special mash potatoes, just delicious!

After four amazing days in this fantastic area, we had the chance to visit and taste a great panel of wines normally ranging between £5.00 to £15.00 and really understand that Bordeaux is not only about expensive Great Growth, but that small, less known estates or region doesn’t mean less in term of quality, I think it means the complete opposite. The smaller estates are fighting to produce amazing wines that worth knowing and should be drunk. This trip was fantastic and I look forward to go back very soon!

Romain Bourger
Head Sommelier

Best of British – December 2013 – Bruichladdich Distillery

DistilleryatNight 2 1024x682 Best of British   December 2013   Bruichladdich DistilleryThere is such an abundance of exceptional distilleries and producers cropping up in the UK now, that here at The Vineyard we wanted to give you the opportunity to taste the best of them. Each month throughout 2013 we’ve been with a different distillery to showcase the best of what Britain has to offer. This month we introduce Bruichladdich Distillery.

Close up of dram in glass 150x150 Best of British   December 2013   Bruichladdich DistilleryThe people of the Bruichladdich Distillery on Islay, Scotland have always been the mavericks of the Scotch whisky world. The founders have a background in the wine trade and because of this their way of thinking has always been a little different.

They produce a number of different styles & expressions at their distillery on the southern coast of Islay. We have chosen to focus our cocktails on just a couple. Their Islay malt & The Botanist gin.

Along with this we have sourced two of their most sought-after expressions; Octomore, which is renowned for being the peatiest whisky in existence and the newest edition of Black Art, which is a very special secret bottling from their master blender taken from the depths of their ageing house. This is a closely guarded secret and an exceptional whisky, every time.

Jim with Port Charlotte casks 2 150x150 Best of British   December 2013   Bruichladdich DistilleryMany people enjoy whisky on its own, sometimes with ice and sometimes with water, but we have made a fantastic winter warmer from their magnificent Islay Malt; the Islay Flip. We have some of the rest of the range to sample on our display so please do let us know if you would like a taste.  Alternatively, please see page 10 of our Bar List for The Botanico – a great twist on a gin & tonic.

Islay Flip
Bruichladdich Islay Malt, Frangelico, plum infused Sake and yogurt liqueur

The Botanico
The Botanists gin stirred with lime, mint, sugar and ginger ale


David Coveney
Head Barman

Master Sommeliers dinner on 24th November

tumblr mwbblh9Y6z1rveocqo1 1280 Master Sommeliers dinner on 24th November

Discover more about the Master Sommeliers hosting our dinner on 24th November

With just over a week to go before our Master Sommelier Dinner, we thought we’d share a bit more about the Master Sommeliers who will be joining us for what will be a very exciting wine fuelled evening. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to see all five Master Sommeliers in one place and quiz them on their wine knowledge

Discover more about the menu and wines

Please call us on 01635 589407 to reserve your place

Dimitri Mesnard MS

Dimitri is a leading wine expert for Jackson Family Wines and their Prestige Account Manager for Europe. Prior to working for the Jackson Family, Dimitri worked at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons and was for several years, Head Sommelier of Hotel du Vin, Tunbridge Wells.

Nigel Wilkinson MS

Nigel is the Fine Dining Account Manager for Boutinot Wines. Nigel became a Master Sommelier in 2005 and is now the Assistant Secretary for the Court of Master Sommeliers European Chapter. Before entering the wine trade, Nigel was twice runner-up in the UK Sommelier of the Year Competition and was named ‘Young Wine Server of the Year’ in 1999. Nigel lives in North Wales with his wife Joy and his two sons Owain and Aled.

Matt Wilkin MS

Originally from Adelaide, Australia’s 1st Master Sommelier Matt Wilkin arrived in the UK December 1998 following a number of years learning his trade in Australia and France.

Matt has held a variety of prestigious roles including Executive Sommelier at the Michelin two-starred Capital Restaurant and Hotel Group Knightsbridge, where he oversaw wine purchasing, liaising with suppliers, staff training, private wine tastings and cellar management for 6 operations. He now jointly owns and runs London-based wine company H2Vin ltd specialising in the Loire and Rhône Valleys whilst successfully building a serious collection of great Burgundy.

Gearoid Devaney MS

In 2010, Gearoid joined Flint Wines and  is one of the most well-known and qualified sommeliers in the country, having passed his Master Sommelier qualification in 2009 and having worked in some of the top restaurants across Europe. Food is as much his passion as wine so he’ll happily answer any questions regarding matching the two together. Previously Gearoid was Head Sommelier at the famous London restaurant, Tom Aikens.

Claire Thevenot MS

Claire was born and raised in Besancon, Franche Comte like Daniel Galmiche! She worked a bit in France, Germany and Switzerland before moving to Brighton 10 years ago for the opening of Hotel du Vin there. She also worked here at The Vineyard for a number of months.After 5 years, she took on the wine training role for both Hotel du Vin and Malmaison. She currently works for Enotria, a specialist wine supplier, where she gets to meet so many people and taste nice wines with the best sommeliers in London.

Discover more about the Master Sommeliers Dinner 

November 2013 – Best of British – Black Cow Vodka

tumblr mvxwmxwB2O1rveocqo2 250 November 2013   Best of British – Black Cow Vodka

There is such an abundance of exceptional distilleries and producers cropping up in the UK now that here at The Vineyard we wanted to give you the opportunity to taste the best of them.  Each month throughout 2013 we are working with a different distillery to showcase the best of what Britain has to offer. 

This month we introduce:
Black Cow Vodka is produced in Dorset and made from 100% cows’ milk.  This is a totally unique concept that farmer Jason Barber took from a nomadic Siberian tribe called Tuva who have been using milk from their herds for many centuries to then ferment and make a spirit.

Although the idea may sound crazy, it is actually quite simple – you begin by making cheese.  During this process you will separate the milk into curds and whey.  Jason will take the curds and send them off to be made into his award winning cheese. The whey, which is usually considered a by product and discarded, is fermented into something much like a beer using a very special strain of yeast that converts the natural sugar in the milk to alcohol.  This is then distilled, triple filtered and then bottled.

Only 300 bottles are produced from each batch of this brilliantly hand crafted and artisan vodka.  It has an amazing mouth feel, which lends itself well to enjoying on its own or also in cocktails. Here at The Vineyard we have created some fantastic cocktails using this brilliant vodka. Alternatively we recommend drinking it with Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic Water, plenty of ice and a slice of lemon.

Black Cow Martini  – £13.00
Black Cow Vodka stirred with dry vermouth; garnished with a twist of lemon

Milk & Honey  – £13.00
Black Cow Vodka shaken with honey, lemon, apple and clove syrup and egg white


David Coveney
Head Barman

Wine Festival Weekend Round Up

We had an amazing start to the Wine Festival on Friday 18th October with an opening Wine Festival Dinner. Created by Daniel Galmiche, each of the five courses were matched with fantastic wine suppliers’ choices and their introductions caused plenty of discussion around our table.

Greek Viognier versus South African Chenin Blanc with the parsley root velouté certainly surprised most people with the outcome on my table! My personal favourite though, I have to say was the Habla del Silencio red wine, selected by Georges Barbier to go with the Veal main course. Although it was up against stiff competition against Ma Danseuse from the Peter Michael Winery, I found it a delightful combination that was unexpectedly good for such a good value wine. A lesser known area that certainly was punching well above its weight!

Marmite choice of the evening had to be the Leonor 12 year old Palo Cortado sherry with the cheese; a wonderfully nutty style of sherry by Gonzalez Byass with it dividing the audience into loving or hating it!

The Nyetimber wines showed extremely well at all showings and received rave reviews and comments, both at the dinner where we showed the Classic Cuvée and an older vintage of the Blanc de Blancs. While at Saturday’s masterclass, the rosé 2009 won over the audience hands down against Schramsberg and Taittinger rosés, much to everyone’s surprise.

I particularly enjoyed doing the Call My Bluff masterclass with Daniel O’Keefe (Hallgarten-Druitt) and James Hocking (The Vineyard Cellars) as it was a chance to lie, cheat and befuddle our way to victory in a bit of fun, as we each described a wine while guests had to taste and see who was telling the truth. Great fun!

Of all the events that I have been involved with this year, this certainly was the most fun and entertaining, and a definite date for the diary for next year, as there was just so much going on, so many great wines to try and I don’t believe anyone left without trying something new or learning a little more about wine in general.

A huge thanks has to go out to our suppliers and supporters though, as without their assistance and effort over the weekend, this would not be such an unmissable occasion.

Keep a look out on our website for details of next year’s Wine Festival Weekend dates. We still have a number of events still to come this year including wine dinners, wine schools, ladies’ lunches and our Christmas gift fair.


Alan Holmes

Restaurant and Wine Director

Rioja Alta Dinner at The Vineyard Hotel

tumblr mu5aqrTHhi1rveocqo1 1280 Rioja Alta Dinner at The Vineyard Hotel

When you think of Spain and red wine, then the immediate thought turns to Rioja.

This classic region in North-Eastern Spain has been producing consistent, high quality, rich, robust red wines for many years.

So we were delighted when one of the top estates, Rioja Alta, joined us for the evening of 27th September.

Francisco Corpas, Export Area Manager, introduced us to a variety of their wines, not just from Rioja, but also their Albarino from Rias Baixas in Galicia, a Ribera del Duero and finally a wonderful pair of Riojas.

This charming man, enthused, delighted and enthralled our guests with his inside knowledge, history and amusing tales of Rioja and Spanish wines evolution over the last 100 years.

Once again, our Executive Chef Daniel Galmiche had pulled out all the stops to produce a variety of dishes, with an Iberian influence that matched perfectly the choice of wines, so much so, that Francisco proclaimed he’d never had a better matched menu! Praise indeed! If this was anything to go by, then our next two big wine events should also be a success. As we look forward first of all to our Wine festival weekend on the 18th & 19th October, and then to our hugely popular Master Sommelier Dinner, when 5 master Sommeliers will battle it out for your votes as to the wine pairing of the evening.

Taking part on Sunday 24th November, not only will you get an amazing insight into what it takes to become a Master Sommelier, but also you will hear many points, tips and interesting facts on how to get the most from your wine. I can’t wait….

To find out about up and coming Wine Dinners at The Vineyard please click here. Or call us on 01635 589407 to find out more.



Best of British – September 2013

There is such an abundance of exceptional distilleries and producers cropping up in the UK now, that here at The Vineyard we wanted to give you the opportunity to taste the best of them.  Each month throughout 2013 we are working with a different distillery to showcase the best of what Britain has to offer. 

This month we introduce: Whitley Neill Gin

Descending from a long line of brewers and distillers with a heritage spanning eight generations since 1762, Johnny Neill created, in 2005, a gin “Inspired by Africa and crafted in England”.

The gin has recently undergone a major face-lift and has been, since its creation, a firm favourite here at The Vineyard. 

It is a truly unique style of gin that uses eight carefully selected botanicals including baobab fruit and cape gooseberries (physalis).  These two flavours help to make a very fruity and well-rounded product.  Along with these innovative African fruits, Johnny blends a mix of classic London Dry botanicals such as juniper, coriander, lemon and orange.

Johnny has been a great friend of The Vineyard for many years and lives just down the road from the hotel. We are very pleased to offer you the chance to sample his gin in some of our very own twists on classic drinks.

Firstly, the Cape 75 which has featured on our list for around 18 months now; it’s is a mix of freshly crushed cape gooseberries (which are used to flavour the gin), lemon juice and sugar.  We shake these ingredients together; double strain them into a flute and then top with Taittinger Champagne.

The second is a twist on the classic Dry Martini; to make the Whitley Martini. We stir a large measure of Whitley Neill gin with Cocchi Americano (vermouth which uses quinine as a flavouring) and a few drops of Peychaud Bitters.

In celebration of this wonderful gin we have also added a Whitley Neill G&T to our ‘Perfect Serve’ gin and tonic list (see page 11 of the bar list) where we blend the it with Fever Tree Indian tonic water, plenty of ice, a slice of lemon and a few drops of rhubarb bitters.

Help us celebrate the best of all things British with Whitley Neill gin this month at The Vineyard and pop in and try one for yourself. May even stay and enjoy a few dishes from our current menu.

David Coveney
Head Barman

A Sparkling Success

tumblr mrzf7sVhyi1rveocqo1 1280 A Sparkling Success

We all know that English sparkling wine rates as highly as many champagnes nowadays, for its quality and flavour, but what about its ability to age and develop like great champagne?

Well, following a superb evening, hosted by Julian Kirk of Nyetimber, I think we can quite honestly and emphatically say that this was proven possible without a doubt!

We started off with the current available release Classic Cuvée 2009 as the aperitif, before moving on to some truly astounding aged wines, released especially for the evening from Nyetimber’s own cellars.

Blanc de Blancs 1996, aged and served in magnum made a fantastic combination when paired with Daniel’s foie gras starter, both having a rich, rounded texture that was sublime.

Next up was the Classic Cuvée 2005, again aged and served from a magnum as this really is the best way to keep wines for any length of time. The ’95 was a firm favourite of mine when it was originally released, but I have to say I was stunned by the honeyed peaches and soft baked spice aromas that jumped from the glass when it was first poured, showing that Nyetimber really does improve with some cellar ageing.

For the main course of lamb, it was decided that we would be one of the first people to show their most recent vintage of the Rosé 2009, only just released, but still showing a lot of youth, with a vibrant colour and masses of fresh summer berry fruit, which was sublime. Having tasted older vintages of the Rosé before, I am considering buying a case to cellar at home, as I think this showed a huge amount of potential for the future.

Finally, we rounded off the evening with dessert and were treated to the Demi-sec, a true treat as it is one of the few (or maybe only one of) estates that have the quality and capability to produce a sweeter style fizz well.

As always at these events, we were given background information, interesting insights and a running commentary of the wines by our host, Julian Kirk. It was during this time that he let us into one of their biggest secrets, a new wine soon to be released but of highly limited production, their Tillington Single Vineyard 2009, with only 2,500 bottles being released and some destined for The Vineyard, this may be the only place you’ll be able to see and enjoy it! Take a look at our Long List for all the Nyetimber wines you can enjoy here at The Vineyard.

Once again a fantastic evening enjoyed by all, with many guests already looking forward to the Rioja Alta Dinner on Friday 27th September, which also promises a great evening of delightful food and excellent wines in good company.

See you soon.

Alan Holmes

Restaurant and Wine Director

Chardonnay and the Quality Divide


tumblr mrmd49FGSJ1reyn1io1 500 Chardonnay and the Quality Divide

“Chardonnay, chardonnay how I love you Chardonnay As I reach to hold you with my trembling hands

In my hands my trembling hands Chardonnay,
Chardonnay you’ll be glad to hear me say
I will never need you more than I do now
In my hands my trembling hands

When I’m sad sad and blue
You are my friend constant and true
I dedicate this line to you
And I would like to take you home with me

Chardonnay, Chardonnay I’m in love with your bouquet
You’re so cold but you so beautiful tonight
In my hands my trembling hands”

“Chardonnay” Written by Cook/Cornwell and performed by Cerys Matthews. Re-discovered by James Hocking

It’s the world’s most popular white wine, it’s planted and successfully cultivated everywhere, it produces some of the most sublime nectars ever created (Think DRC Le Montrachet, Marcassin Vineyard!), yet still seems to have such a stigma surrounding it in certain markets. Why?

Well the answer is quite simple. Oak. In it’s freshest form, the Chardonnay grape can be described as a citrus, tropical, refreshing style, with bags of natural acidity. Think about two key wines made with Chardonnay – Champagne and Chablis. Both relying on their delicate, crisp notes. Poles apart sit the Grand Cru’s of Burgundy and their new world counterparts from California, Australia, and California (see where this one’s going!), with ripe fruit, allied to the delicate vanilla, woodsmoke and subtle nuances that new French oak bring, albeit at a price. So here we have two styles made from the same grape and both very individual.

Now we come to the reason as to why Chardonnay is reviled by many. Most of the varietal that we see on the shelves in the supermarkets is made from fruit of a poorer quality level in the first place. Well, that’s OK in the purest form as at least the wine will have acidity and depth of flavour. Then, the juice is placed in a tank and filled with sawdust chips of oak. A cheap, efficient way to oak wine without costly barrels. The result is a sweet, low-acid, sticky wine with aromas of sawdust, tastes of sawdust and a long, lingering finish of, er, sawdust. No wonder we’re all put off!

So, what can you do? Well personally I would avoid the cheapest (sub 5-quid) bottles, especially from the new world, trade up to around £8.00 or more, and rediscover village Chablis. As a VERY general rule, spend a tenner or more and the wine has seen a proper oak barrel. And so it should!

The two wines pictured both fall into the ultra-high end, French-oaked category. Moone Tsai is from the Charles Heintz winery, Sonoma Coast and Talley is from much further south. Both are currently in stock and both are in my opinion amazing.

Happy drinking!

James Hocking
Director of Wine