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British Wine Week – a new side to grasping growing grape

I hate to imagine what the final bill will be like for the champu consumed this week in London – and the rest of the country – as Jubilee-mania sweeps the nation. There is a lot to be patriotic this year in the UK. We’ve already had the biggest chunk of the celebrations marking the Queen’s sixtieth year on the throne, just the thanksgiving to come today to draw it all to a conclusion (how many of the millions lining the banks of The Thames last night will find their way to church, today, mm?).

We’ve also got the Olympics to look forward to in the summer and, with somewhat surprisingly less gusto than normal, we have the Euro 2012 Championships, where football fans and experts are giving England ass much chance of winning as the bookies are for Prince Charles divorcing Camilla and walking Kylie up the aisle in her place. We have, however, seen a full year of the world of golf‘s top three spots occupied by Brits, with Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood swapping places at number one almost as regularly as The Guard changes at Buck House.

But another passage of events that is seemingly going by without remarkable fanfare is British Wine Week, with the consumer jury still out on whether the UK can actually produce a vino to rival the trending Californian, Australian and South African wines that have replaced the likes of hock, Riesling and Liebfraumilch on supermarket shelves in recent times (I had to put that in – my good lady is a huge fan of Deutshce Wein, so hard to get at your local superstore, these days). This raises the point, why go to the expense in attending cookery courses if your fashion sense for wine is outdated and the night becomes a damp squib because your choice from the wine cellar leaves so much to be desired?

English wine has transformed over the last twenty years

But, according to Alex Down, renowned blogger for The Riesling Revolutionary and from time to time the Great British Chefs website, British wine has emerged from a cocoon it was sharing beneath the same leaf as British cuisine in the last two decades and has turned into a beautiful butterfly, although still somewhat as fragile. This has as much to do with wineries and their masters upping their game in an attempt to rival the likes of South Africa whose wine production, since the end of Apartheid, has ballooned from 30m litres to 400m litres per annum over a similar time-scale.

The key behind the success of English winemakers has been to recognise that grapes that do well in hotter climes are not going to reap similar rewards in our own very temperate climate. Indeed, research and experimentation has seen winemakers in the UK develop the grapes best suited to our very unpredictable weather and has helped achieved two things.

Obviously, there are less failed crops but English wine – rather than try and emulate a Chilean Red or crisp white from the plains of Australia, has developed its own earthy taste, giving it a distinction and an identity it has never possessed before. There is much to be said for the reaction – some critics are appraising it positively, whilst others try to hand it the Phantom of the Opera’s mask as they daresn’t look upon its countenance, let alone let it slip past their lips. Much more to come from British Wine Week to try to persuade the consumer that it is not the enemy. Stay with me this week when take a closer look at the methods being used to bring us the perfect wine to accompany the recipes and menus we learn at our ever-growing market of cookery courses.

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Cookery Courses News

Give me ten good reasons to visit South Africa (hic!)

Yep, there’s a lot to be said for cookery courses. Heck, there are pages and pages devoted to them here on this site. But, to me, if someone was to offer me a choice between a cookery class and a wine tasting session, it would be the latter every time.

That said, as we approach two decades of democracy in South Africa – twenty years that have seen the country’s wine production increase thirteen-fold from 30 million litres in ’92 to nigh on 400 million today – a chance has come about to visit the massive expo in September, which will hope to see 330 wineries gather in The Cape to showcase their product.

Since the apartheid movement stopped getting its own way, thousands upon thousands of mile of vine have been planted across the country, giving rise to a myriad small wineries from the vineries, as well as the big players that have been around since we discovered what grapes had been invented for.

A little like the European Cup, the last Cape Wine event was staged in 2008 and September this year sees its long awaited return. Many of the young entrepreneurs now hitting the ground running with their product would have missed the 2008 show, which in itself attracted in excess of 300 wineries.

If you fancy a crack at getting down to The Cape and sampling the expected 5,000+ wines (why did an image of Homer Simpson drooling just spring up before my mind’s eye, then?), then there is a showcase event in London next week, which will provide the platform for you to be in with that chance.

If you’re free next Tuesday afternoon, take the tube down to Charing Cross and head for Trafalgar Square – you’re looking for South Africa House, if you’d not already guessed. They’re hosting a ’10 reasons to visit South Africa’ exhibition between 2-5pm. Each of the reasons is a bottle of wine from one of the regions in South Africa and will be represented by the winery that produces the bottle of plonk on show.

The details of the chance-in-a-lifetime trip will be announced around 4pm, with a reception and drinks afterwards, stretching into the early evening until 7.30pm. It is an RSVP event; so if you want to wow your peers at future cookery courses with an in-depth knowledge of the right South African wine to accompany any meal, you can e-mail [email protected] or call 0208-405-6442 for further information. If you want to brush up on this year’s event beforehand, you can read more at www.capewine2012.co.za.

Sadly, I’ll miss this one as I’ll be just a little closer to Africa than any who attend as, early Saturday morn, we head off to Tenerife for our annual pilgrimage. So please, if you attend, grab a little Zinfandel for me and I’ll salut! you from across the way with a Sangria or Estrella Damm. Buenos dias!