A tour through English wine country

Visitors tour the Biddenden fields.
From The Independent UK:

By Sally Hawkins

"English wine," emphasized Nigel, my guide at Biddenden Vineyards [in Kent], correcting my mistake. "British" wine, he was keen to point out, can be made using grapes flown in from anywhere in the world. 

As we wound our way through Biddenden's vineyard, I began to understand his eagerness to clarify my misapprehension.

While the Romans had vineyards spread widely across Kent by A.D. 250, they left no legacy of winemaking. So, when the Barnes family planted their first acre of vines in 1969 they were true pioneers, going about it through a process of trial and error. The biggest question hanging over them was whether it was really possible to grow vines in the English climate: a late or early frost can ruin a crop. 

Four decades on, and Biddenden now is the oldest commercial vineyard in the county, with 22 acres of vines. Kent now has more than 350 acres of vineyards, and English wines are raking in international awards (including two gold, 14 silver and 20 bronze medals at the 2011 International Wine Challenge, the Oscars of the wine world). 

It's all very exciting for oenophiles. As Julian Barnes, second-generation winemaker at Biddenden, explained: "While the varieties of grapes are German [such as ortega and dornfelder] or French [such as pinot noir] they are grown in England -- and the local conditions and soil influence the flavours of the wine." 

In Biddenden's farm shop, shelves heave with local produce including the farm's own wines and ciders,  all free to taste. 

"What produce is Kent famous for?" asked Nigel. "The same nutrients they take from the soil are going into the grapes that make the wine." With one slurp of the Gribble Bridge Ortega 2009, I understand: apples, pears, elderflower. The 2007 Pink Sparkling has hints of strawberry. You can't get more English than that.

[Go here for the complete story.] 


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Pittsburgh getting new micro-distillery

PITTSBURGH, PA --  The city's first distillery in nearly a century will open in the Strip District this summer.

Wigle Whiskey, a micro-distiller, will operate on the ground floor of the Pittsburgh Wool Co. building. Its owners, Eric Meyer and his father, Mark, and other family members named the whiskey after Philip Wigle, one of two men convicted of treason and sentenced to hang for his role in the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794.

The last legal distillery in this part of the state was the Schenley Distillery in Armstrong County which closed in the 1970s. The last distillery in the city is believed to have been Joseph S. Finch, which closed by 1920 and moved its operations to the Schenley plant after Prohibition ended.

The Wigle hanging is commemorated in the new company's label, with the rope incorporated into the name. Incidentally, the aforementioned Strip District is a popular mile-long dining and nightlife neighborhood that runs along the Allegheny River just northeast of downtown. Many of the businesses are in former warehouse and industrial buildings.


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KY distillery opens new visitor center

Cutting the ribbon to open the Barton 1792 Distillery Visitor Center in Bardstown, KY. L-R, Chuck Braugh, former plant manager; Mark Brown, president and CEO, Sazerac Co.; Gov. Steve Beshear; Johnnie Colwell, VP/Operations, and Ken Pierce, master distiller.
BARDSTOWN, KY -- Tourists will find the Barton Brands of Kentucky operation here a lot more accessible after the official opening of a visitor Center at the Barton 1792 Distillery.

The 1,000 square foot facility containing branded "1792 Distillery" merchandise and a tasting bar. It also serves as the base of operations for the distillery's tours, which have been enhanced with new areas to view.

Visitors now taking the tour can learn about the history of the 130-plus year-old-distillery, see the area where the grain is received, plus the hammermill and the still used in making its bourbons. The complete tour will wend its way through the aging-barrel warehouse, the bottling hall and the finished-products storage warehouse.

"We're proud to say that we have, despite the challenging economic environment, significantly increased our investment in the distillery, hired additional staffing and committed to keeping this vital industry alive in this part of the state," said Mark Brown, president and chief executive officer for Sazerac, which owns the Barton 1792 Distillery.

Sazerac purchased the former Tom Moore Distillery from Constellation Spirits in 2009 and has since heavily invested in renovating the site to making it visitor and tour-friendly. The facility employs nearly 200 people.

The new visitor center is projected to bring in 10,000 tourists to the region its first year. It will be open Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tours start every hour on the hour. The last tour is at 3 Monday through Friday and 2:00 on Saturday. Entrance to the Visitor Center is at 501 Cathedral Manor (31 E-New Haven Road). Phone: (866) 239-4690.


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