Forty Hall Vineyard's Sparkling Brut

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We at The Amazing Blog appreciate how much passion and dedication goes into nurturing healthy vines, growing luscious grapes, and making good wine. Additionally, the admiration has to expand further still, when such production is to be organically certified and sustainably executed. When you add the often unreliable climate of North London, which is so vital to the whole process, then a truly intriguing story emerges. And that story begins with Forty Hall Vineyard…in Enfield, North London where it rains, a lot!

Enter Sarah Vaughan Roberts, who founded Forty Hall Vineyard in 2009. She asked the question ‘If Paris and New York can accommodate a vineyard, then why not London?’ This was a question that sparked her to dig deeper, and coupled with her interest in wine, Sarah’s entrepreneurial nouse perhaps determined the end result to be inevitably positive. But what of that slight fly in the ointment of our Great British Weather? Well, Sarah explains, the very fact that we are now seeing the effects of climate change, is precisely why our environment is becoming so effective in the wine making process. With temperature zones rising and moving north, some Champagne Houses are already looking north across the channel for potential vineyards in Kent, The South Downs and South Hams, where the cooler climate can be more hospitable to the vines. Something particularly vital in the production of sparkling wine.

However, the intrigue does not stop there, as Forty Hall Vineyard, is also a not-for-profit organisation. They aim to promote community health and wellbeing, which is just as well, as they need all the manpower they can muster, since they also don’t use pesticides. Their volunteer programme enables members of the local community to remain socially and physically active, developing new skills and confidence within themselves.

The fact that the end result of this incredibly inspiring process is a delicious bottle of bubbles has to be the most perfect conclusion to their story. And their 2016 London Sparkling Brut is the perfect bottle to try, to get a flavour of the toil and patience that has gone into it’s creation. Made in the traditional Champagne method, we have a mix of Forty Hall Vineyard’s Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay grapes; the Pinot variety giving a rose-blush hue to the enticing bubbles.

The result is a very refreshing blend of citrus flavours - very clean on the palate and fruity - perfect for the Christmas season which rapidly approaches. And when we talk of gifts, surely there can be few more ‘ideal’ than this, with it’s pedigree, this is not simply a bottle of wine you will be handing over, but something much more. Priced at £28.99, and available on The Forty Hall Vineyard website, you can also read up on Sarah Vaughan Robert’s amazing story here. We recommend checking out their other goodies too - especially the 2017 Bacchus. Cheers!

The Lakes Distillery Gin

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In recent years, the gin market has boomed, emerging a plethora of different tipples that we certainly enjoy exploring at The Amazing Blog. Recently, we were introduced to The Lakes Distillery's offerings, and I suppose you could say that our Friday afternoons have become much more interesting in the name of research!

From Cumbria myself, I was thrilled to introduce The Lakes Distillery to my colleagues. The company is based near Keswick, in the heart of the North Lakes, where co-founder Paul Currie and his team operate their distillery. The team compromises of multiple industry experts; production is overseen by whisky expert Alan Rutherford and distilling by Scottish expert Chris Anderson. You can therefore be safe in the knowledge that the Lakes Distillery's spirits are produced to the highest standard. Equally, the distillery is environmentally conscious - only fuel from sustainable sources is used, and barley waste from their whisky production is fed to local cattle. The considerations even go as far as to bear in mind the transport routes, choosing to refurbish an old barn on the main bus route to and from Keswick, encouraging staff and visitors alike to minimise the use of cars.

We tried The Lakes Gin, part of the Lakes Distillery’s core range, including 'The One Whisky' and 'The Lakes Vodka'. This gin is a special one; it is the only gin with true Cumbria provenance, made from local Cumbrian juniper, as well as a multitude of other specially selected botanicals, such as bilberry, heather and hawthorn. These are steeped overnight in both wheat spirit and Cumbrian water (sourced from the River Derwent), creating a truly Cumbrian outcome. Once steeped, the gin is distilled for up to 8 hours in a traditional and handmade copper pot, creating a smooth and refreshing taste. We found this gin pleasantly fruity in taste, with a citrusy zing that makes this tipple particularly fresh. The packaging is also sleek and elegant, the perfect addition to any spirit cabinet. I like to chill this gin and drink it neatly over ice. However, if you're feeling less adventurous, then it is equally delicious when mixed with a good quality tonic, and garnished with pink grapefruit.

We were also fortunate to try The Lakes Rhubarb and Rosehip Gin Liqueur, a liqueur with a fruity and floral taste that is delicious when mixed with apple presse. It can also be mixed with prosecco, for a sophisticated twist. As with the traditional The Lakes Gin, this liqueur is made with Cumbrian juniper and 13 other native Lake District National Park botanicals. We're sure this is one of the reasons that this gin was a Silver award winner in The Global Travel Retail Spirits awards this year. We must also point out the pretty packaging of this product, characteristically pink in colour; it is both enticing and aesthetically pleasing. This liqueur could easily be added to a vast array of cocktails or is particularly refreshing when mixed with ginger ale.

If you would like to try these Cumbrian delights for yourself, then you can purchase The Lakes Gin here or the Rhubarb and Rosehip Gin Liqueur here, both for £15.00 (20cl). They are great as a present for Christmas (if we're allowed to mention that yet) or simply to treat yourself as the cold weather creeps in!