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Lunch Among the Vines at Three Choirs Vineyard, Worcestershire

Three Choirs Vineyard

Three Choirs Vineyard

We were sitting on the terrace enjoying a delicious pre-lunch glass of sparkling wine. The retired Californian couple to my left had been saying how much the view reminded them of Mendicino County.  On my right young husband and wife, their hands full with a toddler who was enjoying playing with a cat, were telling me that they could be looking at Margaret River vineyards in their native Western Australia.

In fact we were at Three Choirs Vineyard in that magical part of England where the three counties of Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire almost meet.  It is a charmed 100 acres of unspoilt English countryside. The gentle undulating south and south east facing slopes are ideal for vines whose grapes ripen in the summer and autumn sun, kept cool and clean by breezes coming up the valley from the river Severn.  Not surprising that in 1974 soft-fruit farmer, and local wine merchant, Alan McKechnie decided to plant a few vines and see how they did.  His farm manager, Tom Day and his wife Brenda, took a keen interest in this new venture and it is entirely due to their pioneering work that today Three Choirs is one of the most important wine producers in the country.

Today the whole enterprise is owned and run by Thomas Shaw.  Under his management it has blossomed into an important tourist destination attracting visitors from all over the world. Many of them adopt a vine.  They come down to inspect their vine, lunch at the excellent restaurant housed in what was once Tom Day’s home, and can even stay overnight in one of  eight luxurious en-suite rooms that built almost into the vines.

The restaurant overlooks the terrace and the vineyards.  It is managed by the charming Alex, with chef Darren Leonard running a top rate kitchen.  Darren is one of those unassuming chefs who insist on only using the best of freshest local produce,  He then does as little with them as possible so that their natural goodness and flavours are allowed to show themselves off in abundance.

My lunch began with beautifully fleshy slices of Cotswold smoked salmon served with a salad of dressed leaves and fresh capers accompanied by a further refreshing glass of Three Choirs Sparkling Classic Cuvée.  This is a non-vintage fizz made, champagne style in the bottle, from a blend of 85% Seyval Blanc and 15% Reichensteiner that had been left maturing on its first cork for a full five years and only given one per cent cane sugar ‘doseage’ following riddling.

This was followed by a lightly seared new season’s lambs liver on a cushion of mashed potatoes.  It was perfectly cooked, delicately pink and so tender that I cut it with my fork, and served with crispy rasher of streaky bacon and an assortment of vegetables cooked so that they were crunchy and full of flavour and goodness.  With this I drank a medium bodied English red – Four Oaks 2004.  Made from the recently introduced Regent hybrid, the wine was partly made and fully matured in a combination of small new French and American oak barrels.  Easy drinking, it has a quite pronounced blackcurrant and pepper character, with an excellent balance and length.

Dessert was an Iced Sour Cherry Parfait with Kirsh Marinated Cherries, a truly refreshing pudding given the kick of an angry mule by the wicked liqueur impregnated fruit!   I was concerned that it would overwhelm the glass of May Hill 204 dessert wine that I had ordered.  But I didn’t have to worry, here in a small glass winemaker Martin Fowkes had captured late autumn hedgerow favours that blended delightfully with almost tropical fruit aromas lifted by the sweetness of local honey.  Martin, who incidentally married Tom Day’s daughter, is a skilful winemaker who not only produces all of Three Choirs wines, but also wines for many other growers throughout England and Wales.

I returned to the terrace with a good pot cup of coffee, hot and strong, while I wrote up my notes.   The menu certainly offers excellent value and the wine list, that includes a whole section of Guest Wines from all over the world, is an object lesson to other restaurateurs who overload the price of their wines.  At Three Choirs you can eat and drink very well indeed at most reasonable prices given the quality of the produce, venue and service.

© Philippe Boucheron MMVll for eat-the-midlands.co.uk

For more information visit their website www.three-choirs-vineyards.co.uk

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