Last Saturday (10th July) we headed to Oxfordshire to check out the English Food & Wine festival, held at Brightwell Vineyard near Didcot. The drive to Oxfordshire was long but peaceful, with views of weathered stone cottages, wide-open fields and picturesque farms. We also drove past The Crazy Bear in Beaconsfield, a boutique hotel that’s been on our “must go” list to visit for a while!!
With no expectation around the size and scale of the festival, we were delighted to arrive to a relaxed, cosy atmosphere with about 40 stalls. Set within the vines themselves it was a lovely set up, not too big and not too small, with the sun beaming down for most of the day (despite what the forecast said).
We started off heading straight to Brightwell Vineyard’s large marquee which was most prominent. As part of the cost of the ticket (just £8!) you get 5 x 30ml samples – which was great value. As the designated driver Ben gave some of his to me, so I had the full pick of the tastings!
At Brightwell we tried the Oxford Rosé (2018) and the Oxford Gold Chardonnay (2017). The Rosé was a little darker than expected (one man stopped to me ask me “which red” it was!) and so left my mouth feeling a little confused about what I had tried – it was somewhere between a Pinot Noir and a Rosé, which would be perfect with some charcuterie and cheese. Ben found his Chardonnay delicious, which set us up for a good start to the day.
For lunch we tried Urban Chef’s chicken and chorizo Paella, perfectly salty and rich, alongside a BBQ pulled pork sandwich stuffed with every sauce you can imagine. They were both delicious and the meat full of flavour – it’s funny to think Ben was a vegetarian just 6 months ago!
We then went on to sample several other still and sparkling wines from Chafor (boutique wine estate in Bucks), Freedom of the Press (small batch urban winery in Cotswolds), Fairmile Vineyard (Chiltern-based family vineyard), Bothy Vineyard (environment-focused vineyard in Oxford) and Harrow and Hope (family-owned producing traditional method sparkling wines). The stand-out wines for us were:
Chafor’s ‘Elegance 2017’ – with notes of elderflower, stone and lemon zest, it was very easy to drink! RRP £13 found here: http://www.chafor.co.uk/our_wines.html#prod4
Bothy’s ‘The Doctor Bacchus 2019’ – which tasted very similar to a traditional NZ Sauvignon Blanc with tropical fruits coming through. RRP £12, now limited stock available (as sadly Bothy is due to close), but you can find out stockists here: https://www.bothyvineyard.co.uk/our-wines.html
It was also great to meet some new and innovative food and drink brands at the festival.
Whistler’s Storm Tea Liqueur launched their alcoholic tea brand during lockdown last year and have since grown online and through attending foodie events. The liqueur is super sweet (which I loved) and could easily be drunk on its own or with ice as an after dinner tipple. We loved the branding which really stood out and can’t wait to see this fledgling business grow!
We also met In The Loop’s innovative owner who explained how she created her brand in lockdown, after working for an English Vineyard and wanting to create something different in the market. Their range of vermouth’s were botanical and zesty, perfect for summer cocktails. They are also 100% sustainable, down to their beautiful packaging. Worth trying out if you’re after a special gift for someone who likes trying new things.
And finally, the coffee! We absolutely loved Dark Horse Roastery's “Horsebox” blend in our flat whites as well as their Juan Martin Guest Coffee. Paired with a freshly made (very hot!) caramel waffle from Stroople and a Portuguese orange tart.
We had an amazing time a the festival trying all of the food and drink we could get our hands on! We will definitely be back next year, and highly recommend you head over there too! Thanks to Brightwell Vineyard for hosting us 😊😊😊