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The Charles Palmer tasting at Siam2Thai, George Street, Hastings

The Charles Palmer tasting at Siam2Thai, George Street, Hastings

For a very long while now I have meant to write a little homage about Chris and Waew’s Siam2Thai Restaurant on George Street in the Old Town, Hastings: http://www.siam2thairestaurant.co.uk

Not only are these two a fabulously hospitable and interesting couple, doing a roaring trade in their Kong River cuisine, but they are interested in wine, and matching it to their food.

I think I have heard it said that they have the best wine list of any of the restaurants in Hastings, and I can well-believe it – certainly in terms of range.

A few months ago we ate there and tried a Monsoon Valley Chenin Blanc from Thailand, which was off-dry and very acceptable.

The Monsoon River Chenin Blanc

The Monsoon River Chenin Blanc

Last week we returned for their Charles Palmer tasting event – another Sussex Sparkling which has burst onto the international wine scene with acclaim (for its 2009 vintage) at the 2014 Sommelier Awards; and if I heard correctly, at the Decanter Awards and the International Wine Challenge too.

The Palmer vineyard is  just on the right hand side of the A259 as, coming from Hastings, you start to go down the dip, before climbing the approach to Winchelsea.  The family are farmers by trade and thought they’d just have a go at growing grapes…  What about that for a laid back approach to brilliance?

I might say that we had not expected to be among the glitterati of the Hastings wine scene – the very lovely owners of Penbuckles Delicatessen on the High Street were there; one half of the Essential Wine School; and apologies were given from Phoenix & Plum and Sniff & Spit.  [By George Street, we’ve made it!]

Mason Palmer (who might also be Charles Palmer as well; it is a mystery I have not yet solved) gave the talk on the 2009 and 2010 vintages (as well as a recently thrown together still rosé).  These were utterly terrific wines with fantastic elegance and poise, but as you might expect with low-yield premium sparkling wines, house-remortgage-worthy.

The 2009 was bready but breezy, with body and bling.  The 2010 was lighter and fresher with a more floral (honeysuckle?) nose, delightful small bubbles and (paradoxically) a better match for the food in our opinion.  Perhaps it had that Zing to match Waew’s Kong Toasts…

The rosé was pale – like an Anjou – but whilst it had English terroir bite, it was very soft in the mouth; and full from those Pinot Noir grapes.  The skins had been left lying louchely for a mere 12 hours.  And we all thought that the wine  would grow fatter and brighter in bottle over the coming year.  Perhaps there is a still red on the cards in the future?

All in all, this was a fantastic evening spent with some lovely people.

And if there is another wino event there soon, I’ll race you for tickets.

 

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Ian Jarman is still going great guns up at the Ivy House Lane industrial estate.

If you’ve not yet been up to Cooden Cellars’ Hastings hub, then I suggest you get yourself up there.

Not only does he have a wide range of wine – geographically and budget-wise – but he has time to talk to you about what kind of wine you like, and that’s something you don’t get at the supermarket.

Given that I generally try to give value for money tips in this column, I was keen to know what he feels is his best offer of the moment. And I have to say that he came up with a corker.

Pinot Noir Viile Timisului 2011, a Romanian wine made by the wine house Căluşari, is currently retailing at £6.50 but if you take your copy of The Resident with you, then Ian will give you a 10% discount.

To be honest, Pinot Noir isn’t my favourite grape, so I had a bit of heart-sink when he recommended it, but boy was I wrong.

This pale ruby wine is unexpectedly complex on the palate.

Tobacco, licquorice, nectarines, peaches. All these flavours melding with aromas of sour cherry and caramel. Quite extraordinary. And the finish just goes on and on…

We spoiled ourselves and drank it with a takeaway from the Jali restaurant at Carlisle Parade. The match was pretty darn perfect.

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Penbuckle's in Hastings Old Town has a West and an East Sussex white sparkling to try

I was unusually organised and had even sorted out a discount for readers of the Resident Wine Guru column before I found out from the paper that their last edition of the year ran on the 15th!

Aaaaaaaaaaagh.

But who knows, if you quote the article-that-might-have-been to Jackie at Penbuckle’s she might give you the quid off anyway.

Have a very Merry Christmas!

So this is the last column before Christmas, and with festive fun in the air it’s only right and proper that we should talk about bubbles.

I know that given the economic state we’re in, it’s no mean feat getting the Christmas budget to balance; and supermarkets will have deals on that are not to be sniffed at. But I will be doing my best to support our independent traders where I can.

And we can all do that with confidence when choosing our Christmas bubbly, because we have award-winning sparkling wines being produced right here in Sussex.

I was in Penbuckles – the cheese shop on the High Street in Hastings Old Town – at the weekend, and they have some lovely local wines on offer.

There’s a West Sussex and an East Sussex white sparkling to try – the Bolney Bubbly 2009 (a blend of Muller-Thurgau and Chardonnay grapes; small bubbles, lots of green apple), and the Carr Taylor Brut, made just up the road in Westfield, and regularly on show at events such as the Seafood & Wine Festival.

In fact, as a result of a bit of negotiation between the retailer, the vineyard and myself, I am glad to announce that if you take your copy of The Resident into Penbuckles, then a pound discount on the Carr Taylor Brut will be yours – making it an easy rival for any of the lesser-known Champagnes you can buy for £15.95!

All that remains to be said is that I hope you have a Happy Christmas and peaceful 2012, and remember, if you’re stuck for a gift for a loved one who likes a glass or two but who’s tricky to buy for, the newly launched (Hastings-based) Essential Wine School does gift vouchers for their courses. Why not check them out at www.essentialwineschool.com

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Ted Bacon and Ken Maitland are The Essential Wine School

On Wednesday I got a chance to go along to the launch event of The Essential Wine School at Sussex Coast College.

This is the baby of Ken Maitland and Ted Bacon, two experienced hands when it comes to wine: Ken was for years the Registrar of the WSET awards programme and Ted, a retired banker is a WSET diploma holder, trained at Plumpton College.  They are both Associates of the Institute of Wines & Spirits.

The company presents itself as an independent educator intending to offer WSET format courses to consumers and the trade, and will cater for corporate functions too.  See their website at www.essentialwineschool.com for further information.

The college, where the Essential Wine School will do much of its teaching was a good space for tasting – light and with all the necessary technology.  And if the quality of the wines on offer at the launch were anything to go by, then Ken and Ted’s gift vouchers are a good Christmas option for those friends or family who you know enjoy a glass or two but are tricky to buy for.

I was interested to try the Premier Cru Rully; I particularly enjoyed the fairly priced Mâcon Villages that they served; and the Luis Canas Rioja Reserva 2003 was delicious (as it should be at £17.99 a bottle, from our friend on The Ridge: Ian Jarman).

I’m sure they won’t be surprised that I was a bit disappointed to be greeted not with a pukka Sussex sparkling, but with that tired old French brand… 

And I would have been happier being taught with wine in the glass sooner.  But despite these minor quibbles Ken and Ted were good hosts and clearly have a wealth of knowledge and experience to share.

It is great to be able to support new businesses as they set out in what are choppy economic waters.  And it’s particularly pleasing to be able to be cross-party about it all (as my new wine friends have dabbled in local politics for the red team). 

Ken and Ted are raring to go on this new and exciting adventure.  Now all that’s needed is to get them a spot at Liberal Democrat Conference, seeing as they seem so comfortable wearing those funky yellow lanyards! 

Hey – what are friends for?!

Check out their 60 second interview for Sussex Wine List on the blog’s own channel.  There should be a link on the Twitter feed opposite…

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Just to give you a feel for the bustle…

Utterly fantastic that there have been so many come to the Festival this year, given that the weather hasn’t been wonderful.  I went down at lunchtime on Saturday with the job of covering the wine side of things for The Observer, and managed to get a few interviews, and a few nuggets of wine gossip to share.

Had a nice chat with Nick Hales who is the owner-chef of St Clement\’s restaurant up at Mercatoria in St Leonard’s.  I was able to recount the story, and pay Nick the compliment, of having taken Lord Rennard, the former Chief Executive of the Liberal Democrats, to the restaurant when he came to give a talk to the constituency party.  I hope Nick was as pleased as the old elections fox was with his starter that evening! 

Needless to say the Kedgeree that St Clement’s was offering to the festival-goers was sublime: a delicately spiced mix of locally caught gurnard and mackerel; and a good fortifying bowlful to get me through the task of interviewing the winemakers.

I think the compere for the day said there were forty-something stalls and companies represented.  This is a terrific achievement in the current economic climate, and testimony to the great number of high quality food and beverage establishments we have in our area, and not so far afield.  My only slight gripe was that the space on the Stade wasn’t particularly easy to reconnoitre at the busiest times – especially with a pushchair and a grumpy three year old!

We knocked off mid-afternoon, but it was nice to see the weather improving for the later part of the evening.  I hope there were good takings for the stallholders.  From Judge’s at the front, to Webbe’s at the back, they seemed to be pretty busy.

What a cracking event this is, and a real opportunity to showcase our local heritage and ancient trades.

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Unheard of.  That’s two swims in the sea in as many months.  Yesterday we had my youngest’s first birthday party on the beach in Hastings – a fish and chip picnic no less.  Back home, and with the children in bed… time to try this rosé, scored from the bulging shelves of Ian Jarman, at Cellar2Glass.

The tasting note clippet gives you a flavour (sorry; terrible pun).  This is youthful on the nose and in the mouth.  Full of surprises, it’s dry dry dry, and improves with food.  I can see it going a treat with a piece of marinated salmon done on the barbie. 

Am looking to visiting this vineyard at some stage.  It’s a hop, skip and a jump – not far from Hayward’s Heath I think.  They have a great website, and seem very geared up for visitors. 

Here’s what they say on the label:

Our family-run vineyard in the heart of the Sussex countryside has been making award-winning wines since 1972.  We’re a small friendly bunch who work hard to make the best wines possible together…

…Coral pink in colour, this elegant dry rosé may well be summer in a bottle with its fragrances of gardenia, raspberry and lychee, but its full palate makes it ideal for year round drinking.  Linger over its fresh raspberry and apple flavours and smooth finish. 

Enjoy with half a pint of prawns, hot smoked fish, or gently spiced pumpkin soup.

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Headed down to the Stade in Hastings Old Town yesterday afternoon, to check out how the new Jerwood Gallery buildings are progressing.  See here for more information about the collaboration between the town and the art gallery – it is hoped that the gallery will assist the town’s regeneration, as the new Tate has done in St Ives, and the new Turner Gallery is doing in Margate.

As the YouTube clippet of Ian Jarman shows, Sussex wine merchant Cooden Cellars is pleased as punch to have landed

Cooden Cellars van in the foreground; eat@theStade's new building and the East Hill in the background

the contract to provide the wine at the new eatery to feed all the culture vultures.  Steve and Louise who are in charge there will do a marvellous job – you mark my words.

Ian has provided a Spanish red, white and rosado as the House offerings – plenty of guts and glory apparently.  And there is a smattering of other wine to cater for the range of tastes, and a very palatable Prosecco, so he tells me.

The restaurant is actually a fantastic space for tasting wine more formally.  Glass walls both sides, so lots of light to be able to inspect colour and clarity properly!  I hope that Ian will be showing there some of the 1,000 wines he has in the distribution hub up at The Ridge, St Leonard’s.  [Wonder if he needs any little helpers?!  Ian, if you’re reading – I’m game!]

With the net huts in the background, and the largest, beach-launched fishing fleet in Europe bringing in high quality, sustainably caught fish and seafood every day (quotas allowing – see here for a report from my alter ego), this is without doubt a food and wine destination to watch.

So, get on down and explore for yourselves.  And have a glass from Ian, while you’re there!

 

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