A Prosecco for the Garden

I used about half of this bottle from Cambridge Wine Merchants for a recipe that I was test-driving a few weekends ago for MasterChef finalist Alex Rushmer who, amongst other things, is about to open a new restaurant somewhere in Cambridge – recently revealed as The Hole in The Wall in Little Wilbraham.

It seemed a shame to waste the rest, and as the weather was so good that day, we sat in the garden and finished it off.

On pouring, it froths and foams enthusiastically; the nose is spritzy, lightly fruity with Conference pears and a slight seaside tang.

The palate shows more pear fruit, ripe, rounded acidity and some complex, citrus sweetness; the finish is dry, balanced and lingering.

Overall, it is refreshing, elegant and balanced; it does not gain particularly in complexity with air – rather, it remains straightforward and up-front, and impresses by being well-made and more-ish rather than through, say, the diverse flavours and aromas one finds in a good Champagne.

It also costs a lot less than a good Champagne, too.

The weather has been a little mixed in Cambridge since that day, but when the sun returns, this is just right for sitting in the garden.

La Delfina Special Cuvee Prosecco £8.49 from Cambridge Wine Merchants.


Cambridge Wine Merchants – http://www.cambridgewine.com/

Alex Rushmer – http://alexrushmer.com/

Copyright Tom Lewis 2011

Picnic Concerts at Audley End

The sun’s out. The days are getting longer. Sandals can now worn without the risk of frostbite. Summer is finally here. So what better time to plan a picnic. I don’t mean any ordinary picnic though. I’m talking about the fabulous English Heritage Picnic Concerts happening this Summer at Audley End House.

Audley End House in Saffron Walden is the stately venue for a wonderful schedule of concerts this July with performers ranging from Tom Jones and Katherine Jenkins to Scouting For Girls and The Saturdays. This breathtaking setting is the ideal location to enjoy a picnic with friends and loved ones whilst listening to great music in a relaxed atmosphere.

Here are the details of July’s concert schedule at Audley End:

  • Saturday 9 July – Bootleg Beatles & Björn Again
  • Saturday 16 July – Scouting for Girls with Sophie Ellis Bextor
  • Saturday 23 July – The Saturdays
  • Saturday 30 July – Tom Jones
  • Sunday 31 July – Last night of the Audley End Proms starring Katherine Jenkins

VIP packages are available and include hospitality in a marquee which has the best views of the concert stage and a two course cold buffet with wine. Guests can either bring their own picnics or special hampers can be pre-ordered from Carluccio’s and collected on the day. Every concert at Audley End finishes with a spectacular firework display that is the perfect end to a perfect evening of music and entertaining.

On 31 March 2011, the Cambridge News quoted Joel Smith, concert organiser for IMG, as saying that: “The picnic concerts at Audley End bring together fine food and marvellous music in a breathtaking location for a celebration of the British picnic tradition. With the estate boasting a rich musical history – Audley End was built for the entertaining King James I, a strong campaigner for reforming and promoting the teaching of music – the site is the perfect location for magical nights of incredible al fresco entertainment”.

These concerts are extremely popular – especially the ones with big stars like Tom Jones. The last night of the Audley End Proms also gets booked up quick. Therefore it is recommended that you purchase tickets early to avoid disappointment.

Images reproduced from www.picnicconcerts.com, sugarscape.com and getmein.com

Six Summer Picnic Wines from Naked Wines

Cambridge is a great place to be in the summer – we get some of the driest weather in Europe’s northern half and we have lots of green spaces.

I can think of no other city where you are likely to see cows grazing in the centre – and that it is against the backdrop of King’s College and the river just makes it even more special.

After a couple of years of wash-outs, we are also shaping up for that much-promised and equally derided barbecue summer of a while ago.

There are plenty of spots to choose from, but my own favourites in Cambridge include sitting at the top of Cambridge castle with a view of the city’s skyline, lounging by the river bank at Trinity College watching tourists struggling to steer their punts (answer: use the pole) or, further afield, in Grantchester Meadows.

The energetically inclined could take in all three of these, via a walk through the city’s historical centre which retains its quirky medieval layout and either a punt or a stroll to Grantchester.

Naked Wines, one of the most exciting wine retailers in the internet-only space, recently sent me a case of their six best picnic wines for review; the company’s “house-style” is well-made, fruit-driven wines that impress straight out of the bottle – just what you need for a picnic – and you could do a lot worse than packing one of these, pre-chilled, into your hamper. Most are sealed under screwcap, which is another handy feature.

Best for lazy lounging – Benjamin Darnault Picpoul de Pinet, £9.99

Picpoul is a somewhat unusual grape from southern France’s Languedoc region; it makes refreshing, crisp wines with a hint of seashell and sandiness – in a good way. This one is sandy coloured in the glass with aromas of ripe, thick-skinned grapes and a refreshing cox’s apple and pears acidity, with hints of varietal sand and seashells; a good, light quaffer with just 12.5% alcohol, despite its warm-climate origins.

Best with light foods – Arabella Viognier 2011, £7.99

I like Arabella’s wines a lot – this one is lemony, with lots of ripe tropical fruit, some typical varietal peachiness, elderflower, rounded acidity and a touch of mid-palate sweetness. There is some ripe toastiness and a good, balanced finish. An easy quaffer with the acidity and body to stand up to picnic foods like quiche, chicken drumsticks and salad leaves with cherry tomatoes.

The most perfumed – Classic South Pinot Gris 2010, £10.49

Golden in the glass, this is very very floral and perfumey on the nose, almost Gewurz-like with aromas of lychees and beeswax; there is good, tropical acidity with passionfruit and guava and some honeyed weight.

The best rosé – Castillo de Tafalla Rosado 2010, £6.99

As something of a recent convert to food-rosé, I thoroughly enjoyed this ripe and juicy more-ish Spanish rosé.  With raspberry aromas, rounded acidity and a pleasing hint of spice it has a good, savoury finish. Instantly appealing and more-ish, it also feels very well-made and is excellent value.

The most celebratory – Sacchetto Rosé Brut NV, £10.49

If you are looking to make a statement, nothing says it better than fizz and for the wow factor, a bottle of pink fizz takes some beating. The added body of a rosé also makes this a little more food-friendly. With aromas of redcurrants and raspberries on the nose and an easy-drinking feel, it’s a sure-fire crowd-pleaser.

The best with hearty food – Benjamin Darnault Minervois 2010, £9.49

If your picnic food is a little more hearty – pork pies and sliced ham, rather than mixed leaves and salad – then the Darnault Minervois is what you need. It has ripe bramble fruit and plums on the nose, some soft vanilla-y tannins, gentle hints of cloves and spice with good, balanced acidity and tannic grip on the finish.

Recommended wine

The fizz makes the biggest statement here, but for all-round appeal – and value too – I recommend Castillo de Tafalla Rosado.

All wines are available from Naked Wines, with up to 33% cash back for Naked Angels.

Copyright Tom Lewis 2011

Images reproduced from nakedwines.com