Marlborough’s sophisticated wine lovers give lift off for the town’s first food and drink festival
Tio Pepe at 11am and a spasm of sunshine on Marlborough Common. That was the way some 70 food and wine seekers helped to launch the town’s first weekend festival of its kind today (Saturday).
And it headed for initial success despite the forecast rain showers and blustery wind that eventually arrived at lunch time, but not before wine tipster Neil Phillips had ended his first 40-minute session extolling Waitrose’s summer wine cellar.
“Sherry’s for trifle”, one woman insisted amid laughter when he introduced them to a glass of Tio Pepe. But that did not thwart Neil, an old hand at coping with interjections humourlessly, as his appreciative audience sipped through five different wines from vineyards as far apart as Australia and America.
“It was a great way to kick off the show and I was very pleased with discovering what a sophisticated audience I had here in Marlborough,” 53-year-old Neil told Marlborough News Online at the close of his applauded demonstration.
“They were an open-minded audience as well, who proved by a show of hands, how sociable people are here in Marlborough going out to dine and enjoy cooking for people at dinner parties in their own.
“And thinking about what wine to take when they dine in other people’s homes.”
Neil, who has been a celebrated wine tipster for 20 years – and a racing tipster too – believed his audience appreciated “being taken on quite a diverse journey, starting out with the sherry, then wine from Austria and then taking people back and reminding them what has been happening in Beaujolais and finishing up with a sweet white, which was a bit of a marmite wine for some of those present.”
Wine imbibers today had kept pace with the vast range of wines available, knew the names of the various grape varieties they were made from. “Five years ago they wouldn’t have known that,” he pointed out. “Today they give you the answer immediately.”
As a racing tipster too, Neil, from the Cotswolds, presents champagne sessions at Ascot, Newmarket and at the Cheltenham racing festival when some 11,000 bottles of champagne are sold in four days.
But while supermarket promotions are cutting the cost of wine “and I am not knocking the £5 bottle,” he insisted – he recommended wines costing £8 and £9 from the Waitrose range were the best in all respects.
“They are permanent listings in many cases and they’re going to be offered twice a year at £1.50 off,” he said.
And he added: “I am going to be doing my World Cup Tasting tomorrow (Sunday). We will have an English wine, one from Australia, I am going to take people across to Argentina and I am going to be talking about Brazil too.
“There are Brazilian wines, a very good Moscato from Brazil called Aurora, and they can do that because they have a cool climate out there, they’ve got a very good Pinot Noir. Very impressive, very much like tasting Beaujolais.”
ALWAYS LOOK PENSIVE WHEN TASTING WINE IN A RESTAURANT
Neil Phillips had plenty of tips and good advice for the audience during his talk.
They ranged from don’t drink white wine too cold, screw top bottles are fine for white wine but corks are preferable for red,to ensuring that you read the information label on the bottle and always look pensive when ordering wine in a restaurant.
“Hold the wine up to the light and see if it is looking clear, bright and fresh,” he advised. “Swirl it around so that you can smell the flavours. And if it is dull then it is probably corked.”
Tio Pepe, he revealed, provide a date on their bottles to ensure that it is always fresh for at least a year while those who were ABC fans – Anything But Chardonnay – were in fact missing out on many delights.