In the past two weeks I have been privileged to attend two evenings hosted by the unerringly vivacious Cécile Bergart of Hampshire Wine School fame, pictured near left, with one concentrating on the upsurge in gin sales and the other relating to Champagne and English sparkling wine in particular with due attention to propitious food pairings.
Primo gin originates from the Middle Ages evolving from a herbal medicine for a number of disorders to a tipple spread partly through the British empire.
Empirically speaking, London gin is not the original as it was developed based on the older Dutch genever and became popular in the UK especially so in London) when William of Orange, leader of the Dutch republic, occupied the English, Scottish and Irish thrones between 1689 and 1702 and the term gin is a shortened form of older English genever.
Gin aficionado Cécile regaled the audience with her insight and first offered up a textbook London Dry Gin to contrast with the new varieties of gin now hitting the high street.
The new varieties are either floral , spicy or fruity while London gin is a mélange of all these tastes and the City of London Dry Gin No 1 is on offer for just £16 as the 25 per cent off offer on six bottles is available until June 23, so one day left for these offers!
Furthermore, Cécile proceeded to tell us that there are now 32 brands of tonic water and that there is a distillery opening up every week! Fever Tree, unlike the previously ubiquitous Schweppes, is entirely made up of natural products and is very citrussy with nice bubbles.
Tonic waters these days can either be sweet, aromatic or neutral and should be chosen to complement the sort of gin you prefer.
We moved on to a Thames Distillery London Distilled Dry Gin No 1 from an exclusive recipe blended by Charles Marwell and retailing currently at £20 80 with the exotic intensity of the ancient spice route and, paired with orange and cloves, this gin tasted divine!
The final gin we sampled was a Warner Edwards Victoria’s Rhubarb Gin being a variant of pink gin which proved to be deliciously light and refreshing and went so well with an aromatic elderflower tonic, although the £36 price tag is a tad lofty!
Cécile finished by adding a few very handy tips including keeping your gin bottle in the freezer for extra coldness, the crucial importance of ice, tonic needing to be just double in amount compared to gin and using a tall glass with a heavy bottom for maximum enjoyment – varieties of gin abound and happy research!
At the second evening, Cécile began by explaining the difference between Champagne and English sparkling wine. She introduced us to a Delacourt Brut Champagne on offer, as one of six, at just £22.50 and advanced the notion that Champagne is about yeast producing brioche and biscuit flavours with buttery toast – tiny bubbles to boot and this Champagne has been on the lees for three years, something that the English cannot reproduce yet. It sufficeth to say that this fine example has been selected as the house Champagne for British Airways!
Climate change, however, is coming to our rescue and the advance of English sparkling wine is the beginning of an amazing success story comparable to the ascent of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Hambledon and Meon Hill, near Petersfield and bought by a French chap, are leading examples and the English Sparkling Rosé from Tenterden and Chapel Down Winery, on offer at £18, if indeed one of six, proved to be a lively, toasty well-crafted rosé lacking the brioche taste due to less time ageing on the lees, but nonetheless a great pair to smoked salmon and a jolly good summer sup!
As we progressed to white wines, the Margaret River 2017 Semillon – Sauvignon Blanc priced on offer at just £8.25 was fresh on the palate and a great summer quaff and resembled a Bordeaux 28blend of white wine to delight the palate.