Tribute has been paid to the intrepid residents of Wiltshire who trudged through the heavy rain showers and mud to enjoy themselves at Marlborough’s first food and wine festival held on the Common at the weekend.
“It was good for Marlborough, a positive event and despite the weather and the downpours people were remarkable resilient,” Councillor Guy Loosmore, Marlborough’s Mayor, told the Town Council on Monday.
“It was really packed out on Saturday when I was there and that’s not something that happens every Saturday. Let’s hope the food festival comes back next year, which will bring more people into the town and be good for its economy.”
And festival organiser John Rhodes told Marlborough News Online: “The positive response from the public was absolutely brilliant.
“Considering the weather and deluge of rain we’re happy with the results. We had a very good turn out. The exhibitors all reported that they did well.
“The rain that did come down made it very muddy underfoot but I am encouraged that people came despite all that. They’re a hardy lot, intrepid despite everything.”
And he added: “I must admit I saw one lady who turned up in high heels and a gentleman who arrived in flipflops. But what can you say to them?”
He happened to be at the box office when one well dressed man arrived with his wife on Sunday seeking to speak to the organisers and he feared the visitor wanted to make a complaint.
“I told him I was the organiser with a team of people and he responded, ‘I just want to tell you how brilliant it is’,” John recalled. “And we had comments like that from so many people who thoroughly enjoyed the festival. So we we’re definitely happy about that.”
Mr Rhodes and his team, who organise the Cheltenham Food and Wine Festival, had supplies of straw from a local farmer to distribute round the festival site to mop up the rain, though some areas became distinctly seriously slippery underfoot.
So too were parts of the Common where hundreds of cars were parked, some becoming trapped in the mud. But again Mr Rhodes had organised at his own expense for a farmer to bring his 4x4 to tow away vehicles stuck in some of the ruts.
And he also confronted an objection from a nearby resident who complained about the low hum emanating from the festival’s so called “silent” electricity generators, the complainant at the same time saying how he and his wife enjoyed the food they consumed.
“Something we seriously learned was that we were in the countryside and when you are there at night up on the Common it is so quiet,” explained John. “Most days there is a breeze. So if there is any noise then it will be blown down on to the residents who live nearby.”
Will the festival – there were more than 100 exhibitor stalls plus a host of major celebrity events - return next year?
“We certainly hope so,” declared John. “What we do need to do is move the site further up the Common as the area we were in is on a slope and all the rainwater drains down to it.
“I need to negotiate with the town council about whether that is at all possible.”
Wine tipster Neil PhillipsTio 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.
Peter YealandIt’s never been on sale in Marlborough before, but wine all the way from Marlborough, New Zealand, will be available by the glass this weekend at the town’s first Food and Wine Festival on the Common.
And at £3 to £5 a glass that will include the latest example Peter Yealand’s own Sauvignon Blanc, pronounced the world’s best at the 2012 International Wine Challenge, his immaculate estate now declared the Green Company of the Year.
And there will be other wine delights too from the Yealand’s Estate, among them its Pinot Gris 2013, Riesling 2011 and the Vognier 2012 produced since the company was launched in 08.08.08.
Peter Yealand is himself a charismatic figure known for his “can do” attitude to life, who is happiest working on the land at the controls of a bulldozer or digger, his pioneering life chronicled in a book entitled A Bloke For All Seasons.
He has developed seven of his family-owned vineyard sites in Marlborough, as well as several others under contract for other companies, and has developed too deer farms and Greenshell mussels commercially with his wife, Vai, and son Aaron.
And his wine business alone now employs 140 staff, who have helped develop carbonNZero-certificated wines too in the Awatere Valley.
“We are really quite new to the wine scene,” Megan Watts, the company’s European marketing manager, told Marlborough News Online. “We have exhibited in the UK for a couple of years but this is obviously our first Marlborough festival.
“I wasn’t totally aware of the strength of the links between the two Marlboroughs, here and in New Zealand, but it was what attracted us to take part in this first festival here in Wiltshire.
“The Marlborough link for us strong and something real and different that we want to encourage. So we do hope people will come to the festival this weekend, take a taste of our wines – and buy a bottle or two.”
The Yealands estate are also the sponsors of the International Wine Theatre, one of the highlights of the food and wine festival where wine from around the world will be discussed by well-known an respected UK experts, as well as New Zealand wine tipster Neil Phillips.
Enzo, Lewis, Lucas, Reuben, Rosie, Charlie, Diana, Jack, Luke, Toby and Jazmyn baking Pudsey cookiesEnterprising youngsters at Sixpenny Day Nursery in Minal have raised hundreds of pounds for Children in Need.
The proceeds of a fancy dress day, pyjama day and face painting have gone to Pudsey Bear, to help children at home and abroad.
And on Friday a week of activities was wrapped up with Pudsey-shaped cookie making for the pre-school class, under the tutelage of Androulla Derbyshire.
Androulla, who runs Culinary Capers, will be launching her cookery school from the nursery’s kitchen in December.
A course of cookery classes starts on December 10, when Androulla will teach attendees how to prepare for a Christmas cocktail party.
Over coming months there will be a range of courses aimed at beginners and intermediaries, from bread making to baking to the exploration of the cuisine of other cultures, including a curry band quest and a Middle Eastern cookery event.
There will also be basics classes for teenagers and children, while bake-along birthday parties will also be held at the kitchens.
For more information about the Culinary Capers Cookery School, log on to www.culinarycapers.co.uk
To read more about Sixpenny Nursery’s healthy-eating and home-cooked policy, see our feature from earlier this year.
Cheers! It's Burbage Beer FestivalTwenty five different cask ales, including ten from Wiltshire, and 16 casks of cider will be on offer at the 17th annual Burbage Beer Festival this weekend.
The festival starts at 6.30pm on Friday, September 6, running until 11pm. From 8.30pm local band Humdinger will be providing musical entertainment.
Punters can run off fuzzy heads from 10am on Saturday with the traditional six-a-side football tournament, then it's back to the bar on Saturday night from 6pm to 11pm, with musical entertainment from 7.30pm, courtesy of Uncle Jack.
The festival will be held at Burbage Sports Club, East Sands, Burbage. Tickets cost £6 for one night or £7.50 for both, and the tariff includes a souvenir tankard. Drink tokens cost £1.50 each and will buy a half pint of beer or cider. Soft drinks, wine and lager are also available.
For further details, log on to www.burbagefestival.co.uk
Food guru Jay RaynerWhile we all enjoy the delights of modern cuisine, the world is heading for a food crisis with an explosion of prices we cannot afford unless food production is urgently boosted to cope with increasing population.
This was the unexpectedly grim warning that came at the launch yesterday (Saturday) of Marlborough’s first food and wine festival on the Common by award-winning critic and food guru Jay Rayner.
He believes that the projected population explosion of nine billion people by 2050 will put the planet in 21st century unsustainable jeopardy unless we are able to double the amount of food we produce.
The UK’s self sufficiency, according to official figures, has dropped to 60 per cent and some experts believe it is as low as 50 per cent with 60 per cent of our vegetables being imported.
And though he accepts the vibrant food culture promoted in today’s media as something to enjoy, his thundering warning announced at the Marlborough food festival came like the unwelcome rain-sodden clouds that deluged the site.
“It may seem slightly odd to say that standing in the middle of a food festival where everyone is going for the good stuff of life,” 47-year-old Rayner told Marlborough News Online. “There is nothing wrong in an aesthetic interest in food. I am a restaurant critic and I love the way food tastes.
“But what you mustn’t confuse is those lifestyle choices of the upper and middle classes and the wider debate of how we feed ourselves. That is my urgent message and I try to do it in as a lively and entertaining way as possible.
“We are absolutely in a dangerous situation. The issues around climate change and carbon sustainability are vast. It is not simply that the population is expanding at an enormous rate.
“It is the proportion of our population that is going into the middle classes that is huge. At the beginning of the century about 14 per cent of the world’s middle classes were in Asia. By 2056 some 68 per cent will be there and they will insist on eating like we do.
“Chinese consumption alone has risen by a factor of almost four-fold in the past three decades. There are an awful lot of them. And that is causing supply problems for us.
“We are used to abundance and that abundance cannot be assumed any more.”
Indeed, Rayner’s fears are not exactly new. He has highlighted the food riots taking place in Mexico, Thailand and Mozambique, where seven people died in protests over a 30 per cent hike in the price of bread.
And with Russia subsequently banning wheat exports, commodity prices lurched upwards four years ago.
This alone put at risk a regime of cheap and plentiful food at risk, as last seen in 1816 when global crops were hit by an Indonesian volcano eruption and Britain faced food riots.
He acknowledges that TV food programmes in which he takes part encourages our appetites.
“There is nothing wrong with a vibrant food culture, nothing at all,” he added. “The last thing I am suggesting is that people should don sackcloth and ashes and give themselves a hard time. It is not at all what I’m saying.
“But we need to separate out those things so that we stop being so righteous by saying I only shop at the farmers’ market because that is the sustainable way to go.
“Farmers’ market are great. I have one at the end of my road every Sunday and I’m always there. But they are not an answer to mass retail. They are an essential choice for people on good incomes, who need to understand how all the other influences work as well.”
He believes the explosion of foodbanks is not a sign of food poverty but poverty itself which needs to be tackled separately.
“Food prices in fact are too low,” he declared. “People get a bit upset if you say that. Well, food facts don’t work that way.
"Why can’t we create a food policy which sorts out the whole mess and not based on those who are socially excluded?
“We need a proper government with economics that deal with poverty and then we can deal with food separately.
He is dubious too about a growing belief that supermarkets are evil, especially now when they are promoting cut price competition.
“They are not evil because they have encouraged a very vibrant food culture and they have done a brilliant thing on a basis of scale,” he insisted. “And we do live in a small, tightly-populated country.
“But they have also raised the bottom line and they need to look realistically at the way they are sourcing material, how they’re paying for it. Otherwise food prices are going to go through the roof.
“British self sufficiency has fallen and fallen and fallen and we need a robust agricultural secretary to take action. And we don’t have one. This is a serious situation.
“You might say how can you come to a food festival and pour out this stuff. What I say is that if you are interested in this stuff, then you ought to be interested in what I’m talking about too. The two things are not in conflict.”
Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro ContaldoFingers are crossed for good weather this weekend as Marlborough’s debut Food and Wine Festival takes off on the Common with an expected 8,000 people arriving to sample the culinary delights on offer and enjoy themselves.
There will be more than 100 exhibitors on display plus a host of celebrity chefs showing off their skills, other demonstrations and even musical interludes, details of which you can discover by clicking on the festival box on the side of this page.
Organiser John Rhodes, responsible for Cheltenham’s similar highly successful annual festivals, prefers not to delve into the weather forecast – there are some rain showers due – or even check on ticket sales.
“It’s looking at the crystal ball in trying to estimate what will happen,” he told Marlborough News Online. “We won’t know if our first fair here in Marlborough has been a great success and what the actual turnout is until Sunday night.
“That’s because there are other factors that come into play, among them the weather. And I tend to stay away from looking at the forecast because the weather is something totally out of my control.
“So instead of worrying about it we just have to get on with creating a great festival. We hope to see loads of people there. So my message is do come along, enjoy yourselves and have a great day out, rain or shine.”
He is aware that the current austerity regime has resulted in the closure of some 50 farmers’ markets across the country, regular customers now reducing their spending and heading instead for cut-price supermarkets.
But that downward turn has not hit food festivals – because people see them more as a day out for family and friends, as well as a chance to taste – and purchase – quality produce not tried before.
“The end of some farmers’ markets is a great shame,” he added. “Fortunately for us people do see food festivals as something different, as a day out, a time when they can take their family or friends with them.
“We offer a complete package, a whole day of activities which people see as entertainment -- and there is also an educational side to festivals – something they can enjoy and always remember the variety of topics and talks.
“People can come along and learn about different aspects of food, some beneficial from which they can gain knowledge and take it away with them.”
There are benefits too, he believes for exhibitors and producers at the growing number of food fairs.
“They provide a way for producersto find another revenue stream for their business that may have had a down turn too at weekly farmers’ markets because an increasing number of people are now going to the Aldi and Lidl supermarket sites,” he explained.
“It’s all very well to be able to grow a field full of cabbages or asparagus or something like that, but producers do need to go beyond the farm gate and look at how they market their produce in the most imaginative and creative ways.
“So there are advantages all round in food festivals.”
Antonio CarluccioFood served at the British dinner table is “not up to scratch” according to veteran Italian chef Antonio Carluccio, who is going to be one of the star attractions at Marlborough’s first food and wine festival in May.
“There is a big difference between restaurant food and food in the home in Britain,” he says. “The private food is not up to scratch yet, despite all the teaching and all the books.”
Carluccio, who is 76 and the author of a host of recipe books, was speaking as a member of a panel discussing food at the Oxford Literary Festival, and he praised the Italian attitude towards mealtimes, which have a focus on eating as a social occasion.
But when it came to the UK – and those TV programmes on cooking -- the food served at home was below par.
He suggested that children should learn to cook while watching their mothers and pointed to the importance to educated parents rather than rely on cooking lessons held in school.
And asked how he would improve the culinary scene, he added: “It’s very, very difficult. The government wants to start from educating children, mother and daughter.
“If you don’t have that, you’re missing some links and missing some culture. If you taste something that your mother’s made, you will remember it forever.”
Communities Market Awards Winners - L to R - Amanda Fearon from Ramsbury Tea, Henry Auster from The Cotswold Curer, Stanley and Florence Jones from Hinton Marsh Farm, Dewi Williams from Marlborough Mushrooms and Erica Barton from Neustift GoatsFamiliar faces they may be to visitors to the Marlborough Communities Market, but many of the producers are also familiar faces to the judges of the Great Taste Awards, organised by the Guild of Fine Food.
Five of the producers present at last Sunday's market accounted for thirty awards between them, a rarified grouping when considering that each year's awards attracts nearly ten thousand entries.
Hyper-local companies, Ramsbury Tea and Marlborough Mushrooms have recently managed to notch-up three Gold Stars between them, and both have recently been invited to a Trade Event hosted by Business in the Community, Community First and Lloyds Bank - the newly formed 'Taste of Wiltshire', being held at Cleeve House on September 26th.
Hinton Marsh Farm, who have been trading in Marlborough now for nearly fourteen years (having been stalwarts of the previous Farmers' Market that took place in the Town Hall for twelve of them) boast eighteen awards in the last six years. The family run farm have won recognition for their lamb burgers, sausages and bacon, much of which is available on the barbecue that they bring with them to each Marlborough market offering a tasty alternative to their new product, pulled lamb wraps, served up by grandfather Stan and granddaughter Florence.
Other farmers' markets regulars Neustift Goats, who run a small herd out of Lynham and regular attendees of many of the up-market farmers' markets in London have notched up two Gold and one Silver award for their sublime soft cheese, that is potted up on the morning of a market and comes in many flavours including Peppercorn, Lavender, Lovage and Plain. Derek and Erica Barton have kept their herd of goats for 40 years and the business in named after the area of Austria that Erica's mother originates from.
Lastly Marlborough Market stars, The Cotswold Curer who recently caught the eye of celebrity chef Marco Pierre White, when he visited the market over the Summer are also of great interest to local food producer Caroline Wheatley-Hubbard of Boyton Farm's Ginger Piggery, who recognises how difficult it is to produce quality charcuterie in the UK, due to the high standards meted out by our Health and Safety Department.
The next Marlborough Communties Market will be held on Sunday 15th September, where alongside these stellar producers will be a wide range of other stalls, tempting visitors with offers as diverse as recycled computers, Shwopping (bring and buy run by Transition Marlborough) to locally produced honey from the Wiltshire Bee Centre.
More information about the market can be found at www.marlboroughmarket.org.uk