Wine Barrels




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Ely, UK

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"Wine and friends are a great blend”

Ernest Hemingway

  • firstthegrape

Wine tasting for Diabetes UK

On 15th December, we held our first charity wine tasting event in Little Thetford, with all proceeds going to Diabetes UK. I’d planned a wine list based on some of my favourite and most interesting award-winning wines, all of which have taught me something. The big day arrived and brought with it torrential downpours and arctic wind, but twenty-five friends, old and new, braved the elements in search of great wines and to support an excellent cause. Little Thetford village hall was festively decorated, with a sparkling tree and garlands throughout and our tables were beautifully adorned with centrepieces by local arts and crafts store, Bucket Full of Love. Glassware was generously donated to First the Grape by Wineware UK.

First up were the sparkling wines. I chose to compare Champagne and Prosecco, two of the UKs favourite drinks. We discussed the differences between the production methods and how the traditional method of Champagne yields a more aged, bread/brioche flavoured wine, whereas the tank method of Prosecco results in a sweeter, more fruit-forward drink. I tried to illustrate the differences with Nicolas Feuillatte Blanc de Blancs, 2008 Vintage (£29.99, Waitrose) and Freixenet Prosecco DOC (£12, Sainsburys). The Champagne achieved this perfectly and was full of bready notes and light bubbles. The Prosecco, whilst lovely, was not as sweet and fruity as I would have expected and the bubbles were a little coarse when compared directly to the Champagne. However, both were very delicious and everyone had their firm favourite.

Next, we tackled the white wines, which I enjoy because there is always a handful of guests who ‘hate white wine’. We visited Salta in Argentina, the highest vineyard in the world, to try Tesco’s Finest Torrontes (£7.99, Tesco). I vividly remember the first time I tried this wine and was bowled over by it’s unexpected suprises, so it was a real delight to see the reactions of others upon trying this ‘ la uva mentirosa, or "the deceitful grape". On the nose, lots of people did not like it, describing aromas of petrol and cheese. To my nose, floral notes also came through. However, on the palate, it is rich, oily and bursting with flavours of sweet rosewater, Turkish delight, apple and soda float: a real treat and loved by most.

The second white was quite different: St. Clair Family Estate Sauvignon Blanc (£14.99), one of my favourite whites. On the nose, it’s full of aromas of apples, honey and zesty citrus which all come through beautifully on the palate. The high acid typical of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is definitely present, but its gorgeously integrated with none of the searing mouth-stripping usually evident. We tried it with goat’s cheese, a typically successful pairing.

Pleasingly, everyone in the room liked one or both of the wines and even the white-wine-haters were converted.

For the red wines, I chose a cool and hot climate example: England’s Sharpham Pinot Noir 2017 (£17.00, Sharpham Wine and Cheese) and Southern Spain’s Huerta de Alabala Taberner 2014 (£29.99 Bacchanalia Wine Merchants, Cambridge). The Pinot Noir is a great example of a good quality English red wine: medium bodied, full of ripe red fruits with a lovely savoury, herbaceous edge, and inspired lots of people to plan visits to our local vineyards, some of which they hadn’t realised existed.

The Spanish Syrah was the big hit of the evening, which was not a surprise to me. Hugely full-bodied with silky tannins and dense flavours of juicy black fruits, chocolate, spice and cloves, it’s one of my favourite reds and was unanimously loved by everyone at the event.

Finally, we looked at a brief history of fortified wines and learned how port and sherry are made. We tried Cockburn’s Special Reserve Port (£12.49 Waitrose) and Lustau Murillo Pedro Ximinez (£16.99 Waitrose) with homemade Christmas cake. In my experience, they never fail to deliver exactly as expected: the port was gorgeously rich and full of sweet red and black fruits, whereas the PX was typically luscious and dense with chocolate, marzipan, molasses and fruit cake. Both were thoroughly enjoyed and bottles were swiftly emptied.

Thanks @bktfulloflove for this image

We tried some great wines and everyone found several they thoroughly enjoyed. Importantly, everyone had a great time. I bought four bottles of all the still wines, one of the port and two of the PX and what wasn’t drunk was sold at RRP to raise extra funds. The RRP for all the wines, hall rental and licence fees was £625.31, but thanks to our sponsors, we only spent £202.48. We sold 25 tickets at £25 each (and a £10 donation), resulting in a profit of £432.52. Wines sold and donations collected on the night yielded another £170, leading to a total amount raised of £602.52 for Diabetes UK.

Thank you so much to all our sponsors:

· Bucket Full of Love

· Wineware

· Ely Wine Events

· Bacchanalia, Cambridge

· Anglia Wine Merchants, Ely

· Ryder and Amies, Cambridge

· Fen Scene

· Waitrose, Ely

· Sainsburys, Ely

If anyone would like to hold a similar event to raise money for a good cause, please contact me. Likewise, if you are a generous business wishing to sponsor us or one of our events, please get in touch. All my time and effort is completely voluntary, doing something for nothing except to create smiles.

Next event is on 1st February in aid of Pilgrim's Hospice. Join us to try a whole host of new wines!


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