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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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Best gardening equipment that I have seen for a while!

Best gardening equipment that I have seen for a while!

Well the elections are done and dusted, and there is nothing left for Liberal Democrats to do but to turn to drink.

Luckily, here in Sussex, we have some of the finest premium sparkling wines in the world on our doorstep, and what better way to hammer a public sector salary than to buy a bottle or two?!

Happily, I am still finding wines that I have not yet tried and there are numerous vineyards that I have not yet visited across our rarefied county.  I am hoping very much that the summer months will allow for a trip or two.

And of course there is always a random, choice find, to brighten the day!

I had been on the road to Hellingly the other morning, taking a little scallywag of mine to the Herstmonceux Observatory, and we decided to stop at Lime Cross Nursery.

Well if you haven’t stopped at Lime Cross Nursery before, let me tell you, you are missing a lovely place to stop.  Take a look: http://www.limecross.co.uk

The plants and garden paraphernalia seem to be of very good order, and there is a little coffee shop which does quite acceptable and reasonable coffee (drink in, or take away), and – would you believe it – there is a table of produce in the middle of the shop which included a wine rack.

[This is my kind of garden accoutrement, I thought.]

There, standing before me, was a clutch of bottles of the local brew – Henners sparkling wine – of Herstmonceux.  And here they are: http://www.hennersvineyard.co.uk

I had no idea that there was a vineyard in Herstmonceux.

And not only did their 2010 vintage have an extremely classy livery, but the wine was delicious too.

I saved my scrappily written notes – ‘blizzard of bubbles; light gold; floral nose; almonds; cut grass; orangey palate; not too gaseous’.

Perhaps I am wrong, but my recollection was that it was high percentage Pinot Noir.

An experience certainly to savour.  Particularly as there was not much change from three tenners.

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Well I have to say – that was a wicked wine-tasting, on a scorcher of a day. 

I went over to Brighton yesterday afternoon with my friend Dom on the train from Hastings – darn, it takes a long time on a Sunday! – and we got there about half an hour late.

There was a real buzz already.  The winemakers and their wares were laid out country by country around the Clarence Room in the stately Metropole hotel (the air-con having deterred any naturists who had got the wrong end of the PR).

And so we just had to get down to it – whites and rosés first, followed by the reds.

My personal favourites?  Well, there was a cracking rosado (or rosé to you French-speakers) made solely from Garnacha grapes, by Benoit Dreyer – Castillo de Tafalla Angel’s selection Rosado 2010.  Delicious.

The white of the night – a tie.  First equal to the Kiwi Anchorage Riesling 2009 (Chris Anchorage) and Aussie Brewery Hill Jacko’s Leap Savarro 2010 (Jock Harvey).  But the German Rieslings were hot on their trail…

And my favourite red: the amazing, so-gorgeous-that-I-have-already-ordered-some-online, Ryan and Joe O’Connell’s Domaine O’Vineyards Trah Lah Lah 2008 Right Bank Bordeaux blend. 

Just goes to show the importance of being disciplined (!) and going to tastings.  There’s no way that O’Vineyards would have enticed me on their marketing, but the wine is to die for.  Really.

And to top it all, I got the chance of a quick chat with the head honcho of Naked, Rowan Gormley – kindly, approachable fellow that he seemed. 

It was noticeable that there was no table for English – let alone Sussex – wines in the room.  When I spoke with Rowan I mentioned that Sussex Wine List is busy promoting home-grown stuff whenever and wherever possible.  And that one of the obstacles for the region’s premium wines is the unit price for the consumer.  And he said that maybe he (ie Naked) could help.  So what are you waiting for you Sussex vineyards who are canny?  Get reading about the Naked philosophy, and have a look at what they can offer you…

And in a flash it was 9pm; the party was nearly over; but not before I met some charming ladies who have set up www.lovewinebrighton.com.  And here’s the promised shout out:

love♥wine is a membership club that brings together all those who enjoy drinking wine and meeting new people.

We have a fantastic programme of events including tastings, visits to vineyards, food and wine matching dinners to name but a few…

Can’t think of a better reason to live in Brighton.  Can you?

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I was delighted – about a week-or-two ago – to get an email from Jackie Ellis, the Partnership Manager for VisitSussex.org, who had read the blog, and wanted to develop a collaborative way of us working together – all to the end of promoting Sussex wines.

Well I am very excited that Sussex Wine List’s first blog post for VisitSussex.org was published today – and here it is!

Jackie says,

Sussex has an exceptional wine offering, and Nick’s passion for the subject is clearly illustrated on Sussex Wine List. VisitSussex wholeheartedly supports partnership working, and we are pleased to help spread Nick’s thoughts to a wider audience so that they may discover the delights of Sussex wines for themselves.

VisitSussex is a not-for-profit, marketing and promotions organisation that represents Sussex tourism and hospitality interests.  It’s got a really important role because it straddles the region in a way that many of the local government and other authorities don’t.  There is a new energy about the organisation that is infectious; and I suspect that in large part that’s down to Jackie!  Here she is again –

Tourism is important to Sussex.  In 2009 Visitors made at least 50 million trips here and spent £3billion in the local economy.  This supports 60,000 jobs, as well as facilities and services for local people.

Tourism is complex and highly competitive.  Sussex can’t take its visitors for granted.  The businesses supporting VisitSussex realise that a joined up, partnership approach with pooled resources is the most effective way to develop and manage a sustainable visitor economy.

One of our new developments is a vineyards and microbreweries trail.  It celebrates quality Sussex wines and the rich variety of real ales our microbreweries are creating.  Individual profiles of 30 different businesses, written by a national newspaper journalist, get to the heart of each ‘brew’ and tell its story in a way that is appealing to visitors.  Once the trail is live we’ll invite food and drink journalists to come and see for themselves what a fantastic food offering we have here.

We aim to see Sussex recognised as a great food destination.  Through our Serving Sussex Produce work we encourage more hospitality outlets to feature these products because they add immeasurably to visitors’ experience of Sussex as a holiday destination.  Why go elsewhere?

Personally, I think the vineyards trail sounds wicked.  I can’t wait for it to launch.  And I hope – Jackie (if you’re reading) – I get an invite!

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