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Not another cake blog, this one is about wine….!

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Okay so this blog isn’t exclusively about cake but I thought it warranted a piece in its own right.

It’s not everyday you get asked to taste more than 40 wines but that is exactly what I tried my best to do at the recent Summer Festival of the Senses.

ElwoodWineBasketHosted by highly experienced independent wine merchants Elwood the evening at Brighton’s Lighthouse Arts Gallery was designed to excite not only taste but smell, sound and sight too.

As well as the different wines on offer there a variety of Sussex-produced cheeses from La Cave a Fromage and delicious chocolate from Chocoholly, as well as artworks on show from Anita Klein.

There were beautiful reds from France and some surprisingly excellent English wines, which for me, made the night. I am sure I am not alone in still being suspicious of bottles produced in Blighty but the fact of the matter is they were delicious.

The wines from the Stopham Estate, near Pulborough, West Sussex, are worth particular mention as is the vineyard itself.

Owner and producer Simon Woodhead used to work in Formula One making sensors for McLaren before deciding on a complete career change. He took a course in viticulture and four years ago bought some fields on the South Downs, literally planting the vines himself and growing his vineyard from the ground up.

He is currently producing still white, still rose and sparkling wine and was on hand with some of his 2010 Pinot Blanc and 2010 Rose to try.

No I am no wine expert, which is rather the point of Elwood’s wine evenings in that they are open to all, but the only thing I can say was it was a revelation for my appreciation of English wine growing with the white in particular having a delightfully fresh flavour without the breath-taking sharpness I have previously associated with other English wines.

I was also suitably impressed by the sparkling wine available from Breaky Bottom, near Lewes, East Sussex. I tried the sparkling Brut 2008 alongside a well-respected French champagne and can honestly say the Breaky Bottom bottle was my preferred tipple.

It was another lesson well learnt; just because something is called champagne and brewed in the champagne region of France doesn’t necessarily make it superior to other sparkling wines from around the world.

Having said that I tried some lovely reds as well from French producers Domaine Chanson. The Gevrey Chambertin, Cote de Nuits 2009 was an utterly beautiful, smooth and full red which I could have happily drunk all night (as well as listen to lovely Frenchman Matthieu Barrere telling me all about it!). But at £34 a bottle it is something I would reserve for special occasions.

The Mercurey, Cote Chantonnaise 2010, however, at £16.50 a bottle was little more spikey round the edges but equally as drinkable and also worth a mention was the white Rully 2010. Apparently it is often described as a poor-man’s Mersault but I have to say it was just lovely to drink. Easy and creamy on the palate.

I could go on for ages waxing lyrical about all the lovely wines there were to taste but I’ll just mention a couple more reds – the Lo Tengo Malbec, Mendoza, Bodegas Norton 2011 from Argentina was certainly very nice as was the Langmeil Three Gardens SMG Barossa Valley 2010 form Australia.

But as I said before the evening wasn’t just about wine with chocolate and cheese to try too. Now I am not the biggest cheese fan in the world but some of the Sussex-produced Goat’s cheese from La Cave a Fromage was very nice.

Chocolate, however, I am a huge fan of and some of the bars produced by Holly Caulfield are divine. Among my favourites were the ones featuring cardamom, rather like enjoying a a chai latte in a bar and geranium, up there for me with other old English flavours like rose and lavender.

As one of the newest wine tasting converts in Brighton, I am thoroughly looking forward to Elwood’s next sensory evening and trying further delicious quality wines.

I may even start trying the wines with cake. Now there’s a thought….

To buy wines from Elwood visit www.elwoodwines.co.uk

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