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YOU'RE HEARING THIS THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE

The less I grow the better (not entirely true musical pun) ///

Come summertime, Astley Vineyard will release just four thousand bottles of their 2020 vintage. It’s a figure down drastically from ten thousand two years prior, a result of a two night freeze in May last year that killed growth and depleted much of the UK's grapes. And yet, despite the reduced numbers, winemaker Chris Haywood is optimistic. 2020 is shaping up to be a great vintage for English wine; possibly on par with, or even better than the golden vintage of 2018, and maybe the best we've ever seen on these shores. 

The story of Astley Vineyard merits pouring a glass of wine and savouring. Fifty years ago a retired banker purchased the land in rural Worcestershire and set out to build a party house – complete with outdoor pool and tennis courts – to entertain at. Rather than purchase a constant flow of wine he researched what grapes would grow best in the local conditions, before planting the vines with a view to creating his own source of booze. And with those first vines of the Kerner grape variety in 1971 Astley vineyards was born. Fast forward to 1993 and the property was taken over by English wine legend Jonty Daniels, who took a more professional approach to the land with (presumably) no outdoor raves, and laid the foundations for the Haywood family to drive the vineyard on in the summer of 2017. A year later they bottled their first vintage at the winery and haven't looked back since. If you're lucky you'll find their wine listed at restaurants such as Ynyshir, Harborne Kitchen, Hampton Manor, Land, and Craft. I use the word lucky very specifically given that most have sold out in their entirety. 

I first met Chris at the vineyard last summer. He's easy going and chilled; has no pretence about wine and is keen to discuss where to eat as much as his own project. A musician turned wine seller turned winemaker, he went from enthusiast to expert after a spell at the renowned Plumpton College. He shows us around the vineyard, which is effectively their back garden and is nowhere near as large as you think it would be. From there he takes us into the winery where his father was hard at work, before the shop/cafe/tasting room to try the wines. I was blown away by the quality and still maintain to this day that their Madeline Angevine is as good as entry level wines get. If you can find it, buy it. The same goes for the elegant Old Vine Kerner and the jubilant fizz of Freya. They make some very good wine just 45 minutes south of Birmingham. 

The wines which will see the light of day later this year are presently maturing in the tank. It's one of the quieter periods for the winemaking team, when little more than patience is required for a few more months or so. In the meantime they are preparing for the 50th anniversary of the vineyard, with lots of plans that I presently can't tell you about, but will likely involve a celebratory meal or two. Whatever happens this year, it seems fitting that a vineyard born out of revelry has a party of its own to reach the milestone.

Find out more here →

WELL THIS IS GRAND ///
 
By the time you’ve opened this email The Grand Hotel has turned 142 years old, which puts it in firmly at the ‘high risk’ category for COVID. How did they spend their birthday you ask? By making this rather lovely short video. Please open soon. The city needs you. 

A TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE ARTISAN ///


Last newsletter's headline act, Artisan Street Kitchen, is on the line up at Digbeth Dining Club's Click and Collect all weekend for its inaugural event. 

Expect GBM winner Andy Sheridan in the kitchen dishing up his naughty takes on French classics. Deep fried dauphinoise, anyone? 

Order here →

Each week I'll be sharing an insight into my food and drink highlights. 
CoM x OPM 

Carter’s and OPM hit hard with their ‘McDoner’ burger, proving that kebab meat and burgers are a match made in Moseley. Brad made a sweet curry sauce which was better than the Golden Arches version. The pot in my fridge is available to the highest bidder. 
 
Flying Cows

Yes, I know I’ve already mentioned DDC click and collect, and no, I’m not sorry about doing it twice. Popped by last Friday and bagged a Flying Cows burger. Might have cried a little at how good it was. 

Order DDC Click & Collect →
Peach at Home

Very much enjoyed Peach Pubs at Home. Highlight was this cheese soufflé with cheese sauce and walnut pesto that reminded me of the soufflé suissesse at Le Gavroche. Really high quality stuff for not that much money. 
More here →
Gypsy Tears

Drank some rather marvellous beer called Gypsy Tears from Weatheroak Hill Brewery. Contains 0% actual gypsy tears. Tyson Fury loves it, probably. I promise no more gypsy references. 

Buy here →
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