Wednesday 29 September 2010

Parva Farm Vineyard

The Wye Valley seems to nestle in it's own little time warp. Here amongst wooded hills and gently bending flows, streams of day trippers lick on fluffed up fatty cones and pay through the nose for pub grub fresh from the freezer. You wouldn't be surprised if Terry Thomas ran you off the road shouting, "Hard cheese old man". It's a little piece of Britain that's stuck forever in the 1950s.

It was the 1950s that witnessed the first tentative steps towards establishing vineyards in this country. A movement led mainly by retired colonels with a little too much shrapnel left in the brain. Who else would try? They persevered and gradually, as the years passed by, innovations in the vineyard and the winery, together with a spot of global warming, meant some of these wines actually became drinkable.

Around one bend, waved on by a pitchfork yielding yokel, and up a steepish hill, you'll find Parva Farm Vineyard. First planted in 1979 and under the present regime since the mid 1990s.

There's an unmistakable and not entirely unexpected whiff of 'The Good Life' about the set-up, but some of the grapes growing here are a real surprise.

For a small fee you get a signed walk around the vineyard followed by a tasting. It's well worth it.

The views across the Wye towards Tintern Abbey are profoundly genteel and they even throw in a bit of rural leg pulling. My grandfather was a farmer, fond of both literal and metaphorical leg pulling, I could hear his voice whilst reading this.

Aye, right, Romans is it. We came back down into the midst of a minor crisis. The owner's daughter had lost her new puppy. I was impatient to taste the wines so after a brief glance around said, "Don't worry, I'm sure he'll turn up", as '101 Horrible Farm Deaths' flashed through my mind.

I tried to block out images of sad puppy eyes sinking slowly beneath a pit of silage and concentrate on the wines. Annoyingly, and this is a problem with a lot of English and Welsh wine tastings, you have to make do with little disposable plastic thimbles. That said, even a decent glass probably wouldn't have helped the first few offerings. They were, at best, "interesting". Also, they don't do tastings of the sparkling wine. However, spirits lifted immeasurably when the wastrel turned up unharmed.

Then we tasted this...

This is a delicious wine. Off dry and a blend of several varieties. It's aromatic, with a refreshing acidity and that beautiful purity the best UK wines have. I bought a half dozen on the spot, it's the most enjoyable Welsh wine I've drunk, by quite some way. After a few glasses in the garden with my sceptical brother he grudgingly conceded it was very good. My Dad opened a bottle of expensive Italian white afterwards and it just tasted 'dirty'. Hard cheese old man! We nicknamed Parva's Afon Gwy "the spoiler", Terry Thomas would have loved it.

Saturday 25 September 2010

Let Them Drink Chablis

In my wine formative years Chablis was the height of pronounceable sophistication. A just about affordable treat that occasionally tasted sublime. I still love the stuff, although unfortunately it's still usually in the same price bracket. So imagine my surprise when I spotted this in Tesco last night.

The shock wasn't finding Chablis in Tesco... but the price.

Incredible, just incredible, Chablis for £4.49...!!!
I was convinced it was going to taste like battery acid but had to take a punt.
Well, I'm glad I did. It's a good, typical basic Chablis. Sharp, with a lick of butter and a hint of all those fossilised oyster shells lurking below the soil. A remarkable price.

Monday 20 September 2010

Pizza East, Shoreditch

Off to Shoreditch last night for the HOUSE of BLUEEYES Show, part of London Fashion Week, and a little keen so got there early. Inside the pub they'd taken over for the night the final touches were being made... mainly to knitted penises, being enthusiastically fluffed up by both men and women, and yours for just £15. The phrase chocolate teapot sprang to mind.

So we popped along the block to Pizza East for a quick nibble before the main attraction. The place was jumping but they managed to squeeze us in at the bar.

"Anything to drink?" asked our server... "What's the Sangiovese like?"... "Mmm, it's on tap and can be a bit weird, it's particularly weird this weekend, I'll give you a taste". I loved that description and she wasn't kidding. We had a pleasant half litre of Primitivo instead for about £15.

Unfortunately all, or some, of the ingredients were missing from just about every pizza we tried to order. "It's been crazy this weekend". Eventually settled on a cheesy, eggy, leeky one and the classic margherita.

Half of mine hit the floor on it's way to the table. The other half was cold. Lots of genuine apologies and another was promised. The cheesy, eggy, leeky one was good.

The next attempt at a margherita took some time and had to be chased. When it eventually arrived the tomato sauce was raw and they seem to have run out of the advertised buffalo mozzarella too.

It was acknowledged at payment. "I'm really sorry, that was a catastrophe, I'll just charge you for the wine". That was a shame. The staff were friendly and the place was buzzing, just the pizzas and lack of ingredients let it down. Right enough, that's a pretty big 'just' for a pizza joint. I'd definitely give it another shot, but last night, as Reggie Perrin's son in law would say there was a "Bit of a cock-up on the catering front". Which reminded us...

Pizza East on Urbanspoon