Reviewed by Nicola Mccallum
When I heard about the Winchester Wine Festival it instantly appealed to me. I have often found myself stood next to the wine selection in the supermarket trying to make a decision on which wine to choose. I have found myself thinking about trying some different wines but due the vast selection of wine out there I find myself always selecting my trusty favourites. This would be a lovely opportunity to find some other wines that tempt my palette and to also try some that I would not normally pick.
The Guildhall in Winchester was an excellent choice of venue for this event. Situated in the centre of town with good transport links it gave me the opportunity to use public transport without worrying about driving. An impressive building itself I was impressed to see how modern it was inside with good facilities. We were off to a good start as we came in from the cold to be directed to the free cloak room to store our heavy coats with plenty of staff available directing us to the hall we required.
Tickets for this event were priced at £25 which I found an acceptable price considering there is no limit to the wine available to taste, there was also with the opportunity to buy some of the wines at discounted priced at the event itself. Included in the ticket price was also a Riedel Degustazione glass worth £12.50 which was used throughout the afternoon to taste each wine. A programme detailing each exhibitor’s along with a pen was presented which enabled each visitor to make notes or in my case, place a mark next to the wines I enjoyed so if I didn’t make a purchase on the day for a specific wine then I knew I had the details to order at a later date. This was very simple to follow as each table was numbered which enabled you to easily find the exhibitors page within the programme and each wine which they had on offer was listed along with the price per bottle.
This event was organised by Susie Barrie and Peter Richards who are each Masters of Wine, while I was aware who they were from my following of Saturday kitchen I did not expect them to be so involved with the whole festival. The first person I came across was Peter himself who greeted us in a warm friendly way. This was my first time attending a wine festival so I was unsure on the whole procedure but Peter gave us a brief description, some good advice of where to start and informed us of the different master classes that were available to book on the day. Unfortunately the wine and cheese master class was already fully booked but we did manage to secure a place for the port and chocolate session.
A very simple concept was introduced to us. The first stop was to head to the table entitled “Follow your Taste”. Here the each type of wine was categorised into 6 different styles – fresh whites, richer whites, lighter reds, full-bodies reds, sparkling wine and sweet and fortified. Each category has its own colour and all you simply had to do was decided which type of wine you enjoy and place the coloured equivalent sticker on your top. This meant that when approaching each exhibitor they would be able to direct you to the wine you would enjoy based on your sticker selection. There was no limit to how many stickers you selected and we did see a few people proudly displaying all six of the different coloured stickers.
With over 30 exhibitors there was a great selection of wines on offer but also in attendance were the Chesil Rectory, the Myers Touch, Hampshire Charcuterie, Top Note design and CHOCOCO. Each exhibitor was very friendly, knowledgeable and passionate about their produce. They all seemed to love being there as much as the visitors.
I was already thoroughly enjoying my afternoon slowly making my way around the exhibitors but I was still to participate in the Port and Chocolate master class. This was hosted by Susie Barrie and Claire, the founder of CHOCOCO each of whom displayed the same enthusiasm for the products they were showcasing. With a selection of 6 different ports to taste each with an accompanying chocolate Susie helped to explain the process of the correct procedure to taste the port in order for us to get a full appreciation of each taste and sensation. This master class I thought was a bargain, priced at £5, especially as two prizes given away to two of the participants and a goody bag presented to everyone on completion. I wished that I had had the opportunity to book the wine and cheese master class too. The goody bag was above and beyond what I expected as each contained a beautiful port glass, a delicious CHOCOCO chocolate and a bottle opener.
On completion I then visited some of the stands I had yet to visit and again I was not disappointed with what was on offer or with the friendliness of the exhibitors I spoke with.
Overall this event was above and beyond all my expectations. It was apparent that every single person at the event whether it was a visitor, and exhibitor or staff was enjoying themselves to the full. Not only had did I discover some new wines that I enjoyed but I also came away with several Christmas presents for my friends and family (and some for myself). I am most certainly returning next year and I hope I will be lucky enough to attend more than one master class.
Without hesitation I would give this event 5 out of 5. The only thing I can find fault with is I now have to wait a whole year before I am able to experience this event again.
Tickets cost £25 per person.
The Winchester Wine Festival will be back from 27-29 November 2015. For more information or to book tickets visit www.thewinefestival.co.uk.
Guildhall Winchester, The Broadway, Winchester, Hampshire SO23 9GH