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Food & Drink

Ramsbury Tea bags top awards

Amanda Fearon of Ramsbury TeaAmanda Fearon of Ramsbury TeaRamsbury Tea has lifted two cups at 'the Oscars of the food world', where judges declared their blends ' virtually faultless'.

At the 2013 Great Taste Awards, organised by the Guild of Fine Food, the company's Lemon and Ginger infusion was singled out as “a very gentle, refreshing infusion” with “a lovely bright, fresh aroma and balance of individual flavours.”

Meanwhile, their Granny's Garden herbal blend was praised for its “list of ingredients that reads like a nature book” with judges calling it “a lovely soothing drink where you can taste all the different elements”.

The teas were judged in a blind-tasting competition.

Amanda, who founded the company two years ago after being mentored by one of London’s oldest family owned tea and coffee merchants, said commitment to using top quality, high grade tea leaf, expert blending and use of local suppliers is what makes Ramsbury Tea special.

“We wanted a really punchy lemon and ginger and we thought it would be as simple as mixing lemon and ginger but that just didn’t taste right,” said Amanda, a familiar face to shoppers at Marlborough's twice-monthly Communities Market.

“So we experimented with loads of other ingredients until we got something that really delivers the goods. There’s lemon myrtle from my native Australia, which gives it an extra lemony twist, lemon verbena, and lemongrass which also brings out the spicy tingle of the ginger.”

Granny's Garden, meanwhile, is described as “ a mouthwatering mix of six different herbs.”

“Our tisanes like camomile and peppermint are always really popular but we wondered what would happen if we got creative and mixed a few together. Granny's Garden is a wonderfully refreshing brew and each of the ingredients stands out, without overwhelming the others,” said Amanda.

“All our products are blended and packed right here in Ramsbury. A lot of love and hard work goes into Ramsbury Tea and it’s wonderful the Great Taste judges think so too.”

Ramsbury Tea can be found in quality cafés, restaurants, farm shops and delis in and around Wiltshire, or ordered online from

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A book swap and Lavazza coffee await customers to the Cosy Bean Coffee Lounge - Marlborough's newest coffee shop

Deputy mayor, councillor Marian Hannaford-Dobson opens the Cosy Bean Coffee Lounge flanked by the proprietors, Andy and DebbieDeputy mayor, councillor Marian Hannaford-Dobson opens the Cosy Bean Coffee Lounge flanked by the proprietors, Andy and Debbie

Cosy by name, cosy by nature, that's the promise of Marlborough's newest coffee shop, the Cosy Bean Coffee Lounge which started serving the Espressos and Lattes first thing on Saturday (17 Aug).

The deputy mayor, councillor Marian Hannaford-Dobson was there, along with her husband, town and county councillor Stewart Dobson, to perform the opening ceremony.

Launched by Andy and Debbie, this is the first venture for either of them into Coffee shop management, but both boast a wealth of retail experience, Andy as a Sales director for 30 years plus, and Debbie as a retail HR manager.

"It's something that both of us wanted to do" said Debbie,  "don't do it now, then never going to do it".

Debbie and AndyDebbie and Andy"We wanted to make it very welcoming and friendly, we're serving top quality Lavazza coffee - we believe the only place in Marborough to do so - and to be a little bit different" she added.

They are also offering a book swap, so whilst enjoying the Americano or Latte customers can bring their own book in and swap it for a cost of £1, or just pick up another one for £2.



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You've tasted a Margarita cocktail, now try Poppy's Waitrose award-winning fruit smoothie

Waitrose store manager Ian Smith with Poppy Childs and children from Preshute SchoolWaitrose store manager Ian Smith with Poppy Childs and children from Preshute SchoolDallas socialite Margarita Sames, Tsar Alexander II, and steamship mogul Walter Gibson are all people who've lent their names to a cocktail they created*

And today, Marlborough schoolgirl Poppy Child added her name to the list, with her award-winning fruit smoothie – totally alcohol-free, of course. 

Poppy (9) formed an acrostic, using healthy ingredients to spell out her name. Poppy's Smoothie contains passion fruit, orange, pomegranate, pineapple, yoghurt and strawberries.

Marlborough News Online had the chance to try the drink today, when children from Poppy's school visited Waitrose to learn about healthy eating; and we can confirm it is worthy of a plaudit.

Twenty seven children from Preshute School visited the supermarket to learn about the traffic light food labelling system – green is good, red is bad – and to find out where their food comes from prior to hitting the shelves.

They toured the shop floor and warehouse, played healthy eating games, and tucked into healthy snacks and drinks: milk made from oats and rice, and plenty of fresh fruit and veg.

The children were invited on their behind-the-scenes tour by Waitrose partners Janice Kingstone, Claire Kington, Bev Corfield and Sarah Tunmore, who were taking part in Volunteering Day.

Poppy Childs with her award-winning recipePoppy Childs with her award-winning recipeThis year, the employee-owned retailer has supported 500 hours of staff volunteering with schools and charities at the Marlborough branch alone.

The store's new branch manager, Ian Smith, was on hand to toast Poppy's success – with a glass of Poppy's Smoothie.

Make your own Poppy's Smoothie:

Passion fruit (juice of half)
Orange (half, peeled)
Pomegranate (juice of half)
Pineapple (peeled quarter)
Yoghurt (three tablespoons)
Strawberries (six large, chopped)

Blitz fruit in a blender
Strain through a sieve
Add yoghurt and whisk
Pour into glass
Decorate and enjoy

* The Margarita contains tequila and Cointreau; The Gibson is a martini with a cocktail onion replacing the olive; The Brandy Alexander is a mix of brandy and crème de cacao. None of them are suitable for children. 

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Apple day organisers promise a jam-packed day

Tilda Borthwick (4) looking forward to Marlborough Apple DayTilda Borthwick (4) looking forward to Marlborough Apple DayOrganisers of Marlborough Apple Day say the event is set to be the best yet, with plenty of free fun, education and retail therapy for all the family.

Now in its third year, the event will take place from 11am to 4pm on Sunday 14 October in and around the Town Hall.

The leading highlight of this year’s event is an apple identification workshop, led by renowned fruit authority Dr Joan Morgan. Places are limited for the Apple Identification. To register interest, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Attractions include:

  • Opening welcome ceremony with cornet fanfare to greet the Mayor and 'Wiltshire Maidens': rare Wiltshire apple tree saplings specially grafted for Marlborough Community Orchard by Barters Nursery.

  • Announcement of the winners of the A4 Apple Art Competition and prize giving by Juliet and Peter Kindersley of Sheepdrove Organic Farm.

  • Apple pressing outside the hall, so everyone can enjoy freshly-squeezed apple juice.

  • Pip planting, face painting and other activities for children.

  • Fabulous retail line-up: local food and produce and hand-made preserves; local apple juice, honey and real cider; bee-beautiful local beauty products; bird boxes, ladybird houses, apple trugs and other bespoke woodwork ; hand-stitched linens and hand sewn gifts; Sarah Raven’s bee-friendly bulbs and seeds, gardening accessories and kitchenalia; Marlborough Community Orchard’s new series of limited edition apple cards; Apple Day treats for dogs, and much more.

  • Sumbler’s ‘Best -Ever Hog Roast’ with windfall apple sauce plus, new this year, scrummy cakes and drinks provided by Bow Belles@ Little Apple Café.

  • Gloucester Old Spot competition, sponsored by Haine & Smith, starring a sow and her piglets, specially filmed for Marlborough Community Orchard by Orchard Pig.

  • Display and tasting of rare native Wiltshire apples, growing advice from experts and Wiltshire apple saplings for sale.

  • The opportunity to sponsor orchard fruit trees for the new Diamond Jubilee Plantation on Marlborough Common and other sites around town.

  • Four-star luxury raffle brings the chance to win: Four tickets to a special performance of the Nutcracker, followed by afternoon tea at Sheepdrove Eco-Centre and Organic Farm; a case of fine wine from Waitrose; a three-course dinner for two at The Bell at West Overton; an hour long aromatherapy massage at Indulgence Beauty salon.

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The mantra that produces New Zealand’s latest Marlborough wines

Liz SaguesLiz SaguesTwice winner the Regional Wine Writer of the year title in the annual Louis Roederer International Wine Writers' Awards, recognised as the industry's most important, LIZ SAGUES provides an insight into New Zealand’s latest wines.

She has been tasting and writing about wine for more than 20 years, and as a member of the Circle of Wine Writers, she regularly travels abroad to taste wines in Europe and elsewhere.  Liz is also deputy editor of the Circle’s own acclaimed newsletter.

As New Zealand celebrates its largest-ever wine harvest, there’s a smile on the face of David CoxAs New Zealand celebrates its largest-ever wine harvest, there’s a smile on the face of David CoxCox, Europe director of New Zealand Winegrowers, is the man responsible for ensuring that the UK remains the top volume export destination for the bottles which will result from the 328,000 tonnes of grapes picked for the 2011 vintage.

Cox’s enthusiasm for the generous 2011 vintage may seem a little surprising give the over-supply problems of a year ago, when the widespread sight of £5 – or even lower priced – Kiwi sauvignon on UK retail shelves threatened to cut into the established quality image.

All that’s over now, he says, as figures show that New Zealand still heads the price-per-bottle league in UK sales, with the retail average at just over £6, around £1.50 more than the figure for all wine.

“Supply is back in balance,” he assured me as NZ Winegrowers showed the first releases from 2011 to UK trade and press. “Worldwide demand is increasing, we are no longer having to discount.

“Our mantra is to go back to a premium position, to sell for a premium price. New Zealand wine is worth it, and the 2011 vintage is good.”

Tasting through the 2011 Marlborough sauvignons on show confirmed that. They are certainly crowd-pleasing, soft yet crisp and generously fruited with the expected variety of flavours. The first should be on sale here soon.

Very nearly three-quarters of those grapes come from Marlborough, by far the biggest of New Zealand’s 10 wine regions and the one which put the country on the world wine map with its distinctive, exuberant sauvignon blancVery nearly three-quarters of those grapes come from Marlborough, by far the biggest of New Zealand’s 10 wine regions and the one which put the country on the world wine map with its distinctive, exuberant sauvignon blancBut as Cox emphasises, there is a lot more to Marlborough than generic sauvignon blanc. Regionality within the main area is being emphasised, with Awatere, the Southern Valleys and Wairau identified as key sub-regions.

Similarly, there is evolution of style, with more barrel fermentation and lees ageing, for example, resulting in more complex wines.

“We are seeing differences that come through in the glass,” he continued. “It is proof there is a place to go above entry level. New Zealand sauvignon, and especially Marlborough, still has legs to grow.”

That increasing variety stretches to the vine choice, too. Marlborough is also the most important region in New Zealand for pinot noir – just over 40 per cent of plantings, against 25 per cent in the cult region of Central Otago. The style is crisply red-fruited – think strawberries and raspberries – but there’s a decent tannic backbone in all but the simplest.

Cox also emphasises the importance of Marlborough’s classic chardonnay. “New Zealand chardonnay is one of the most exciting styles of new world chardonnay. There is lots of really nice clarity and minerality, particularly from Marlborough.”

And aromatic whites have a good future in the region: there are plantings of riesling, pinot gris, gewurztraminer, even a little gruner veltliner. Cox focuses on pinot gris, arguing that the previous broad and sometimes puzzling spectrum of style and sweetness has been narrowed.

“It will be a tertiary brand after sauvignon blanc and pinot noir.”

So what of the future for a country which has such a big name with UK wine drinkers, even though it is one of the world’s smaller wine producers?

Cox isn’t looking for massive growth, though he would love to see New Zealand jump from its current eighth place in the UK to overtake its nearest competitor, Spain. That’s rather a distant prospect – there’s currently a £120 million gap in sales income to bridge – and he is realistic about what is possible.

“New Zealand cannot and does not want to be all things to all men,” he said. But he acknowledges there are two gaps in its offering which Marlborough in particular could help to fill – serious, food-friendly rosé and good fizz.

“We could be the next port of call for people stepping up from prosecco and cava,” he suggested. “New Zealand could be THE new world producer of sparkling wine.”

There’s a prospect to toast!

NB: New Zealand Winegrowers is the national organisation for New Zealand’s grape and wine sector. It currently has approximately 1,000 grower members and 700 winery members. See for more information.

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Children come face to face with farm animals at open day

Milo (6) comes face to face with a friendly cowMilo (6) comes face to face with a friendly cowChildren came face to face with farm animals while adults got a bird's eye view of a state-of-the-art 'cow-rousel' and an innovative machine that turns muck into brass, during an open day at a Pewsey farm.

Stowell Farms threw open the doors of its milking parlour, at Sharcott Pennings Farm, for the Open Farms Day initiative on Sunday. 

The dairy – which opened in September 2011 – is home to 500 head of cattle, and the herd is milked 38 at a time in a rotary parlour.

Cows queue to step on to a turntable where milking cups are attached to their udders manually.

All aboard the cow-rouselAll aboard the cow-rouselMilking takes place as the turntable rotates, and when each cow reaches the exit point she is herded back to the cowshed.

A viewing gallery and classrooms have been built above the milking parlour so that groups – from school children to a recent delegation of bankers – can see the operation for themselves.

The dairy also boasts an anaerobic digestion plant, which turns cow slurry and silage into electricity and light.

Visitors were told that around 15 percent of the power generated – 12,000 kWh a day – is consumed on the site, with the remainder sold on to the National Grid.

A family enjoying Open Farms DayA family enjoying Open Farms DayIn future, the farm hopes to heat Pewsey Vale School, Pewsey Leisure Centre, Pewsey Primary School and the children's centre with the spare energy it produces.

Open Farms Sunday was held at 365 farms across the UK to help visitors discover the story behind the food they eat.

A recent survey by the British Nutrition Foundation found that almost a third of UK primary pupils think cheese is made from plants and a quarter think fish fingers come from chicken or pigs.

Other participating farms included Wexcombe Manor at East Grafton, Cobbs Farm, Kingham Farms at Aldbourne, and Rutlands Farm at Avebury.  

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Invitation to Come A-wassailing

The anicent tradition of wassailing will be revived in Marlborough in the new year, as Marlborough Community Orchard volunteers attempt to 'wake up' the apple town's apple trees to ensure a bountiful harvest.

Wassailing has its origins in pre-Christian Britain, when the Anglo Saxons would hold a mid-winter feast and offer toasts of 'waes haeil!', which loosely translates as 'be thou hale' or 'good health'. 

In the middle ages, peasants would visit the house of the lord of the manor, hoping for a share of the fine food and drink he would be enjoying. Over time, the wassail became carolling. 

Meanwhile, in the West of England, wassailers would toast the health of the trees, to ward off evil spirits and ensure a good harvest. 

Cider was poured over the roots of the trees and cider-dipped toast tied to the branches for the robins, tree guardians.  Then the wassailers would bang drums, blow whistles, and sing a song:

Wassaile the trees, that they may beare

You many a plum and many a peare,

For more or lesse fruits they will bring,

As you do give them wassailing.

Marlborough wassailers will be meeting at 4pm on Saturday, January 5 to revive this ancient tradition. Wassailers are asked to bring a torch or lantern, a pan lid and a wooden spoon. 

Led by the reverend Andrew Studdert-Kennedy, wassailers will process from Priory Gardens to Culvermead Close, then on to St Mary's Churchyard, 'waking up' the apple trees on the way.

Mulled cider and apple juice will be served at the church at 5pm, with rousing songs led by the Marlborough Community Choir. 



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Bottoms up for the Burbage Beer Festival

Twenty five different cask ales, including ten from Wiltshire, and 15 casks of cider will be on offer at the 16th annual Burbage Beer festival this weekend.

Punters enjoying the 2011 Burbage Beer FestivalPunters enjoying the 2011 Burbage Beer FestivalThe festival starts at 6.30pm on Friday, September 7, 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 Devizes-based Fat Freddy's Cat.

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, while two tokens can be exchanged for a quarter bottle of wine. Soft drinks are also available.  

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