Rathfinny Wine Estate

Wine tasting and more

Sarah, better known as ‘Crushed Grape,’ here – I know I am completely rubbish at this.  Last week, tired at the end of a long day, we went out for a drink and I ordered my favourite tipple. Mark leans towards me, I lean back, and he says, “What does it taste like?”  “That’s easy,” I think replying, “English sparkling wine” – actually, that’s a lie, I still say Champagne, but I’m learning!  He tries again patiently, “break it down,” he adds to which I churlishly reply, “I don’t want to, I just want to enjoy it!”

This is not the first time I have had this experience.  I am the one at a wine tasting who drinks most of the first glass in one go, pulls a face and is about to say something horrid only to look around and see smiles and joy as others talk of “the sensation of mousse” – salmon or chocolate I wonder?  While others talk of hints of honey and shortbread, I wander into thoughts along the lines of …. I haven’t had shortbread since I made a burnt batch at school, and didn’t we make rock cakes too then as well?  Who makes either of them anymore?  I then get completely absorbed in remembering things like cheese straws, which I loved and pineapple upside down cake which I didn’t, only to find I’ve now drunk 3 glasses and am none the wiser. I’ve said it before, I like what I like and I quickly know what I don’t.

Things I have learnt – to be skipped over by those in the know and that will hopefully redeem me in my husband’s eyes.

  • France has Champagne, which it jealously guards as a name and has protected status
  • Italy has Prosecco
  • Spain has Cava
  • What does England have?  English sparkling wine!

To be honest, I never knew the difference, thinking Champagne was the real thing and everything else was somehow inferior.  But, as we know with Ridgeview winning the prized Decanter award, taking it from the Champagne region for the first time, as well as multiple other awards being won in England, that is not the case.

Forgive me for keeping this simple – it’s how I think.

Champagne and English Sparkling Wine is made using the traditional method.  What this means is that the wine is fermented once in a steel tank and then again, when yeast and sugar are added in the bottle, which provides the fizz.   This gives a more ‘complex’ flavour than say Prosecco which is fermented in tanks in a shorter space of time, with more sugar. (I don’t follow much more than this as Mark talks of ‘yeast’ and I think of Marmite.)

Experiment  – this I can recommend as it involves having to drink a bottle of both Prosecco and English Sparkling wine while pretending to be carrying out research!  “Look at the bubbles in Prosecco,” says Mark, “they are larger, more uneven and don’t last as long as compared to those in the English Sparkling wine/Champagne glass” He looks up to see if I am following.  “It’s true!  I can see it,” pleased with my success.  The only problem is, the glass never stays full enough for long enough to be more exact than that.

Feeling quite pleased with my new found knowledge – more soon!

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“A day without Champagne is a wasted day!”

“A day without Champagne is a wasted day!” Patrice Noyelle, President Pol Roger Champagne

Apologises for the delay in posting this blog.  I feel guilty for having already broken one of the main rules of social networking I am told – post regularly, and I have a sinking feeling that before I’ve finished this one, I will have broken a few more.

I could say it’s because of Christmas and school holidays, but if I’m honest too, there are other reasons that I have delayed.  I will admit to having been a touch disgruntled. Having been woken at the crack of dawn on the 2nd January by my husband viewing small photos of blonde women wearing skin tight vests on his ipad, my mood was not enhanced as he proudly claimed them to be ‘twitterers’ responding to his Sunday Telegraph article, ‘City Slicker Hopes For Vintage Year’ with comments like ‘I like wine’ and ‘only with cheese.’  “Who cares?” I snarled covering my head with a pillow.

Too late.  Dark forces were at work.  At a Christmas party a good friend in the advertising world declared, large wine glass in hand, that he wanted our blog to show the whole story, the highs, but in particular the lows, the struggles, the arguments.  He saw my face.  “Sarah, I don’t want you to fail of course – just almost!” he added with a laugh.

Was this the sort of thing he wanted?  Grumpy, post new year’s eve reflections of a put-upon wife who not only was expected to go through CV’s, draft employment contracts, read husband’s essays, learn the intricacies of blogging but had, I realized with a hint of martyrdom, also bought every Christmas present, written every card and decorated the house while my husband swanned around the farm looking happy and having his photo taken.

No, I decided, this was not what the blog was meant to be about.  So I then spent some time trying to stay relevant to our new project but also honest and true (another rule!)  It didn’t get any better.  I realized I don’t really like blogs and never read them.  I’m not even on facebook. (Suspect I’ve just broken yet more rules!)

And then it occurred to me, I know NOTHING about wine.  Seriously.  Nothing.  I simply regard it as either nice or not, and drink rather too much of the former category.

It’s not all bad news though (I say thinking of husband when we he reads this,) I do love sparkling wine, truly.  It is my favourite drink and would be my choice every time.  Daunted in the past by its cost and availability and by the looks I felt exposed to if I dared to ask for a glass of bubbly, I love the new trend where in good bars you can now order a glass, preferably English, sip with enjoyment and regard the world not as a grumpy wife, but a co-partner of an exciting new venture.

(Do you think that’s enough to be forgiven?)

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Photo: www.davidrose.co.uk

A lovely picture of my Husband taken by David Rose for the Sunday Telegraph.

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Viticulture! Marvellous! What is it darling?

The largest vineyard in Europe! That’s where we’re heading now, but this time last year it wasn’t so clear. My husband had just decided with his partner at work that enough was enough in the City – too much stress, too much market volatility and it was time to stop. Aged 45.

My jaw dropped.  Was it the lack of income?  Of security? Of invites to corporate events?  No. (Well, maybe a bit on the events front!) As the words of my mother’s generation floated through my head, ‘for better, for worse, but not for lunch’ as their husbands retired, my friends confirmed my worse fears. He would know what I got up to every day; he would become ‘Chief Sneak’ in my world of women.

I set to work.  He admired a wooden bowl – I sent him on a week’s wood turning course. Carving – 1 day or 3 – I chose the latter. Cooking – we went through a phase of curries and complicated condiments on a regular basis.  Just as I was running out of ideas he came into the kitchen with one of his own.

“I’m thinking of doing a full time, 2 year course in Brighton on Viticulture,” he said. Relief coursed through my body as an encouraging smile formed on my face. “Viticulture.  Marvelous. Brilliant idea!” I said out loud as I focused on the words ‘full time, 2 years,’ and away even in ‘Brighton.’

A pause.  I stopped. “Viticulture. What exactly is that darling?”

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