Half full

This is the sort of thing you want to read about your first bottles of wine:

"Otterfarm Seyval Blanc Sparkling Wine 2010 tastes fantastic after 2nd fermentation! Young, but tell you what, this is serious stuff". Tweeted by Ulrich the winemaker (@VividWinesUK) on Saturday night, it rather made my day.



This year has been a hard one as far as the vineyard goes. A lovely April and early May had many people in English wine counting chickens..June and July had many kicking the cat. Flowering was hindered on the normally reliable Seyval, with the little cap that sits on the flowers unable to release and blow away in the damp, overcast conditions. Without good flowering, pollination was hindered and fruitset very limited. As a result we have little Seyval to follow on from last years.

This isn't good as as lot of time, effort and money has gone into the vineyard this year - the mower, steel canes to replace the bamboo ones that the trunk of the vines are tied to, many days of planting, weeding and feeding.



On the upside, the more tricky-to-grow Pinot noir is doing very well indeed. They flowered in sunnier, drier conditions and despite a less than sensible summer they are looking good. We only have a few hundred Pinot vines (with a few hundred younger ones catching up) so we'll not be looking at a huge harvest this year, even with the few Seyval we can add in.



In the meantime we have to take care of what we have - knocking off any small bunches that don't look like they'll make it to maturity (so that the plant's energies aren't wasted), keeping an eye out for disease, and thinning out the leaves around the bunches...



The bad luck has an upside: if the grapes mature as we hope, it forces us to make something different to last year's Seyval-only sparkling. A small run it maybe, but it's an excuse to discover whether an Otter Farm Rose or a sparkling from Pinot and Seyval is going to be special.

I'll call Ulrich tomorrow and see what he thinks.

Shops

I ruddy love fudge I do. Having just spent a few days in Cornwall I feel compelled to comment on what was, by most reasonable standards, a fairly thorough sample of Cornish fudge offerings. One major point: too smooth Cornwall, too smooth. If I'm going to eat fudge I want some granularity, some roughness on the roof of the mouth, like they couldn't be quite arsed to stir all the sugar in or something. The closest I came to true fudge happiness was a piece of what the shopowner referred to a 'broken tablet'.



Perhaps it was the similarity with 'broken biscuits' that suckered me in. We had a shop where I grew up that sold broken biscuits - it was called The Sweet Welcome, a touch ironic given the demeanour of the staff that served. We used to nick sweets and jazz mags from there...no fags though, as rather inconveniently they were shelved behind the counter*. Another, The Sweet Sensation, also sold broken biscuits but that was a few hundred yards further on, beyond the bus stop at which we alighted...the bus stop opposite what is still referred to as The Old Post Office, which ceased being a post office sometime in the mid 70s. It is now filled by a firm of lawyers. The last time I went in there was ten years ago, to see my dad's lawyer just after he died (my dad, not the lawyer obviously, do keep up)**. I didn't buy any biscuits, broken or otherwise, from across the road.



Talking of sugar and Cornwall, I have another complaint to register: cafe owners, restaurants from that county and around the country...please stop with your bowls of those irregular nuggets of brown and white sugar. Firstly they are the naff, new millenium equivalent of the Athena poster, secondly it's very likely your drink will be too sweet or not sweet enough and thirdly, they don't ruddy well dissolve (surely their one essential characteristic other than affording sweetness) until the drink is almost cold.

Before I went to Cornwall I did three things: I spent two days taking photos for the River Cottage Herb Handbook (two of which above) which you'll be pleased to know isn't being written by me, but by the very lovely Nikki Duffy. It will be a fantastic book, very much focusing on food...and having eaten about 30 of the recipes in two days I feel well qualified and now appropriately shaped to judge.

And I spent a day with Lia Leendertz taking pics for a book and to go with her article in the Telegraph. Nice that they used the one taken just after I'd told her the steak and kidley joke.

I also managed to get collared by Murry, who (amongst other things) makes films at River Cottage, and told that I and Steve had exactly 5 minutes to say something sensible about the new River Cottage Fruit Handbook...we failed.





* I think I've mentioned before that any possibility of me entering a life of crime ended when I was collared by the fur of my snorkel jacket (literally, caught by the fuzz)...and threatened with my parents being told. I told them the big boys made me do it.

** On that visit, the lawyer gave me a letter I've never opened.

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