Mercian Vineyards Awards

After a very busy few months volunteering in the vineyard, the harvest is finally all in and things are not quite as frenetic as they were. A great time then, you’d think, for the Mercian Vineyard Association‘s annual awards ceremony – although I suspect not every member has completed their harvest at this point, so not everyone could attend! The harvest is reckoned to be three weeks behind this year, so indeed some people are still out, diligently picking grapes!

However, it was still a good turnout for the awards lunch at Hothorpe Hall out near Husbands Bosworth. The weather was particularly wintery, with grey dramatic skies and blustery winds, but that did not serve to dampen the spirits of the English wine producers and their guests, from folk with allotment operations to larger scale wineries.

The judging had taken place the day before and so there were 100 opened bottles of wine which could not go to waste. Everyone got stuck in trying the wines, comparing their own work with others in the same category, discussing the harvest this year and sharing advice and tips about the noble art of wine making.

It was a great opportunity for me and The Boy to have a try of a massive selection of new wines that we had never even seen before, and so more familiar names that we have at least heard of during our adventures through English wine!

Our favourite wine of the day was the Somerby Magna Carta Reserve Rondo, which is a deep and oaky red with a practically opaque colour, bags of black fruit flavour and heavy, full tannins. Made in Lincolnshire, I was surprised to find out when I got home that you can actually buy this in one major supermarket. I also enjoyed their ‘Ampulla’, a nicely rounded sweet wine.

After much quaffing and discussion, we sat down to a lovely three course, silver service lunch, with my menu choices including a warming and hearty leek and potato soup, meaty and delicious beef bourguignon and a sticky toffee pudding with a flavourful vanilla ice cream and seemingly random single strawberry garnish!

It was nice to sit with people from other wineries and have a more in-depth chat with them over lunch, especially as everyone retrieved the wines from their own vineyard for us to enjoy with our lunch, allowing me the opportunity to scribble even more notes about even more wines – some 30 in total!

Filming appeared to be by BBCs Inside Out team

After lunch had settled, it was on to the awards presentation. There was some recognition of Kingfisher’s Pool Spirit of Freedom, sparkling rose, but none of the (now sold out and phenomenally popular) King Richard dry white. No accounting for taste I suppose – some of the judges are Masters of Wine, but I will have to disagree with them on a couple of decisions!

Liz did win the award for ‘Member’s Choice’ – an accolade voted on by the association members on the day, based on a blind tasting. Here King Richard’s subtle perfume and excellent structure shone through from the 6 wines on offer and the rightful winner was crowned, bring to Rothley not just a very extravagant crystal trophy, but also a very handsome side of smoked salmon!

Many thanks to Liz and Matthew of Rothley Wines for very generously inviting myself and The Boy and taking us along to the awards at their own expense. It was a great learning experience for me, a lot of fun to get a handle of such a great variety of English wine makers and also a delicious lunch! Look out for more tasting notes in the future!


Bestselling author and freelance drinks writer. Champion of pubs and breweries. Occasional printmaker.

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