At the weekend, I stopped by Cambridge’s Hotel du Vin for their farmers’ market and barbecue event, organised by the hotel to showcase some of their various food and drink suppliers with both samples and produce to buy.
We were greeted at the entrance by roasting chestnuts and an array of fresh produce from Lenards of Covent Garden, the hotel’s greengrocer, from which we were encouraged to help ourselves; our haul included, amongst other things, a punnet of delicious strawberries which we had on a picnic the following day.
The hotel, a conversion of four townhouses, has a somewhat quirky, if not labyrinthine, layout but this made the experience all the more intriguing as we walked from room.
In the library was Radwinter Wild Game, whose excellent sausages I have reviewed previously at a Cambridge Food and Wine Society event; they were selling a mixture of game, including muntjac, rabbit, hare and squirrel for which there is no closed season as they are pests.
October marked the start of the pheasant season but Radwinter’s spiced pheasant sausages are so popular with customers that they keep frozen stocks to be able to sell them all year round and the ones we sampled were lovely.
Moving past the Kandula Tea Company from Ely who have a range of bespoke and classic whole-leaf teas and infusions as well as being Great Taste Award winners, we met La Cave a Fromage / Premier Cheese Ltd – both essentially the same businesses, the former its retail outlet and the latter a trade supplier – and sampled a 2-year-old Comte which was utterly delicious.
Nicholson’s Herb Farm supplies the hotels herbs, but also had a range of seasonal chutneys and jellies for sale.
Glebe Farm from Huntingdon, which provides the hotel’s flour and sells their range (all stone ground at local windmills) at Cambridge Farmers’ Outlet, had cakes and crunchy granola for sampling.
Grasmere Farm, not actually from Grasmere at all but based in Lincolnshire, supplies sausages, bacon and black puddings had a range of sausages to try – a delicious smoked Rutland, a sharp cider and apple, a herby Lincolnshire as well as a fruity apricot and some haslet.
Moving outside, Bar Manager Stefan had a range of real ales and ciders to sample, all supplied by local wine merchant and beer enthusiasts, Bacchanalia.
We started with a Kipling from Thornbridge Brewery in Derbyshire – called a South Pacific pale ale due to the use of New Zealand hop variety Nelson Sauvin, it was fresh with tropical fruit and pronounced bitter aromatics.
The Jaipur IPA was felt light, despite its higher 5.9% abv, clean and hoppy. Next was a Southwold Bitter from Suffolk brewer Adnams – heavier and darker than the previous beers, it was malty and crisp. Finally, a beer from Cambridge’s newest micro-brewery and one I had not heard of before – Cambridge Moonshine Brewery. Their dark Night Watch Porter was like Bonfire Night in a bottle with smokey, treacley, toffee aromas and is made with honey and wheat as well as the more usual malt and hops.
Picking our way downstairs, we found Head Sommelier Nicolas whom I had met at a cigar dinner a few months ago with a range of wines to try.
First was an English Chardonnay 2010 from Hush Heath Estate – very pale in the glass, it has a touch of oak on the nose. However, the palate provides quite a surprise as it is full of ripe, tropical fruits and feels surprisingly lush after the much more restrained first impression.
Giving the wine a bit of aeration allowed the primary fruit to die down a little revealing good acidity and a minerality on the finish, suggesting that with a bit more bottle age it will improve significantly and become more balanced.
Next up was their rose; with Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay in the blend, it was essentially a flat Champagne and proved to be much more as expected, with red berries, some stone fruit, focused acidity and a clean, pure-fruit feel.
The final wine was a Bauduc 2008 Clos de Quinze red Bordeaux. With mostly Merlot in the blend, it was light and perfumed with aromas of bramble fruit, prunes and coffee. On the palate there is sweet vanilla and a gentle grip on the finish, but, personally, I would have liked a little more texture.
Of the three, the rose showed best on the day for its clear, focused acidity, but the Chardonnay has the potential to improve.
Details of future events at Cambridge Hotel du Vin are available on their website – http://www.hotelduvin.com/hotels/cambridge/cambridge.aspx – or by calling the hotel on 01223 227 330.
Hotel du Vin – http://www.hotelduvin.com/hotels/cambridge/cambridge.aspx
Bacchanalia – http://www.winegod.co.uk
Copyright Tom Lewis 2011
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