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The perfect Easter wines to pair with food, selected by Fiona Beckett

22nd March 2018

Whether guzzling chocolate eggs or feasting on sumptuous roast lamb, food and wine writer Fiona Beckett has the perfect selection of Easter wines to match.

Just as the sort of food we fancy changes at this time of year and so the wines we want to drink with them also moves on. We instinctively crave lighter, brighter flavours in both (in theory), so it’s bye bye rich porty reds like amarone and hello fresh crisp whites, rosés and light juicy reds.

Who knows what Easter will bring weather-wise though? We could be sunning ourselves on the patio or huddling round the fire so I’d keep your options open.

Here are the pairings I’d suggest with some seasonal favourites:

Roast lamb and wild garlic

Roast lamb: paired with fresh and fragrant wild garlic oil, it’s the best of spring on a plate. Photo: Natale Towell.

Wild garlic’s rampant right now and adds a punchy flavour to any ingredient you put with it – in fact it’s more important a factor than the lamb in this pairing. I’d choose a rustic red like a Côtes du Rhône or other grenache, syrah and mourvedre blend (often known as GSM in the wine trade!). Try our roast lamb and wild garlic recipe.

Roast chicken

Try Thomasina Miers’ ultimate roast chicken with a white or red.

Who doesn’t love a simple, homely roast chicken and the good news is that you can equally happily drink a white or a red wine with it. If you’re going for a white I’d pick a smooth white burgundy or other chardonnay, for a red I’d fancy a fruity red burgundy or other pinot noir. Try Thomasina Miers’ Ultimate Roast Chicken recipe.


The most delicious Italian way of cooking pork that I personally reckon goes better with a white wine than a red. You could keep the Italian vibe going with an Italian white like a pinot grigio or verdicchio or, if you’re a red wine only sort of a guy (or gal) go for a Tuscan red. Any cold leftovers will go really well with a rosé too. Try our Porchetta recipe.

Fish pie

Pair a sustainably-caught fie pie with a range of whites. Photo: Natale Towell.

Fish pie is all about the gorgeous creamy sauce so again that tends to suggest chardonnay which loves cream and butter. If you want more of a contrast try a sauvignon blanc like a Pouilly Fumé which will act like a squeeze of lemon or a crisp English white like a Bacchus. Try our Perfect Fish Pie recipe.

Beetroot risotto

Go for Beaujolais with beetroot. Photo: Natale Towell.

Beetroot has a really sweet earthy flavour so I’d go for a fruity red like a pinot noir or Beaujolais rather than a white. Try our Beetroot Risotto recipe.

Hot cross buns

Tea trumps wine when it comes to freshly toasted hot cross buns. Photo: Natale Towell.

Fan though I am of wine I really don’t think you can beat a good cuppa with a hot cross bun. Personally I’d go for Earl Grey but you could go for Rooibosch if you prefer to avoid caffeine.

Rhubarb frangipane

Celebrating the best of British rhubarb. Photo: Natale Towell.

The perfect recipe to complement a luscious dessert wine like a Sauternes or similar sweet wine from the Bordeaux region. Late harvest riesling would also work well. Try our Rhubarb Frangipane recipe.

Easter chocolate

One egg or two? Photo: Natale Towell.

So what do you drink with the kids’ leftover Easter eggs which tend to be milky and super-sweet? A glass of Prosecco would go down nicely when you finally get to put your feet up as would – you may not believe it! – a pale cream sherry. Trust me!

Fiona Beckett is drinks columnist for The Guardian and restaurant critic for Decanter magazine. Visit her website for expert food and wine pairing tips at

Shop the full range of Easter wines, seasonal recipes and chocolate treats. 

Going out? Head to 10 of London’s best wine bars. Staying in? Sign up to our new wine club Winedrop to be the first hear of exclusive offers and new wines.

Find out why ‘new season’ spring lamb is a myth, swot up on 10 common wine myths and meet award-winning sustainable English winemakers.


Easy eco-friendly swaps for a plastic-free kitchen

15th March 2018

Top chef-inspired hacks for a plastic-free kitchen, courtesy of Luke Holder and his pioneering Chefs Against Plastics movement.

No plastic bags here.

After decades of warnings and campaigning from environmentalists, the (heavily-polluted) tide is finally turning on plastic. Bars are turning to paper straws; chefs are banning it from their kitchens; even the government is starting to take action; slowly.

The size of the problem is now seemingly too big to ignore: plastic blights our oceans, rivers and lakes; infects our animals and litters our planet.

The good news is that there are more ways than ever for consumers to say no to the ubiquitous synthetic. By making a few simple changes and substitutions, you too can join the good fight and become part of the solution instead of the problem.

In order to do so, we’ve compiled some simple tips and plastic-free hacks with the help of chef Luke Holder, who recently launched the Chefs Against Plastics movement, which has already garnered significant support within the hospitality community and forced suppliers to switch to more sustainable methods.

Luke has first-hand experience of trying to reduce plastic usage in the kitchen (albeit a commercial one) having done so at his New Forest restaurant, Hartnett, Holder and Co.

“We have looked in detail at what working practices we use, and have asked all involved to really consider how we can reduce our plastic footprint,” he explains to Farmdrop. “If there is any unnecessary single use plastic anywhere, then we have removed it.”

Change-up your shopping habits

The first step to establishing a more sustainable kitchen, Luke says, is to reconsider your shopping habits.

Chef Luke Holder is on mission to drive plastic out of the kitchen.

“Try to be aware of what you bring into your home in plastic, and, if you’re a fortunate enough to be able to afford to, try to purchase alternative items or shop in alternative places where they don’t use plastic to the same levels.”

This could mean shopping at your local greengrocers or farmers’ market instead of supermarkets, or — self-promotion alert — trying out an ethical grocer such as Farmdrop, who use crates to pack food and recently announced further packaging improvements.

If you do continue to shop at supermarkets, then avoid produce with unnecessary packaging. Bananas in a bag, for example. Oh, and take a tote bag.

Read the small print 

Following on from the last point, it’s also important to decipher which packaging you can and can’t recycle – as it’s not always clear. Make sure to scan labels for the recycling logo, keeping in mind that plastic cannot be recycled ad infinitum, and avoid things made from composite materials. And if you’re still not sure, Google is your friend.

Did you know that most tea bags aren’t entirely biodegradeable?

Also, don’t be complacent about things that you feel are unlikely to contain synthetics. It might surprise you to learn, for example, that most tea bags contain polyproprylene which means they are not entirely biodegradeable. Sadly, the same is true of many milk cartons.

Find alternative ways to store and preserve food

Let’s face it, plastic is great at keeping food fresh (though it can lend a slightly plasticky flavour) but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other means.

Tiffin boxes and stainless steel containers make an ideal alternative to tupperware, though as Luke says “tupperware needn’t necessarily be shunned as it can be used multiple times”, while don’t discount the old trick of covering a plate of food with another plate, which works less well for things that can be squashed – a souffle, for example.

Try pepping up your kitchen with a traditional Thai tiffin carrier.

Finding a sustainable replacement for cling film is slightly trickier, especially if you tend to use a lot of it, but Luke recommends consumers try wrap made from beeswax, which can be bought online from Beeswax Wraps UK among other companies.

Instead of sandwich bags, try varieties made from cloth or simply use glass resealable jars.

More simple, sustainable plastic-free swaps 

Made those changes and think you’re close to achieving a plastic-free kitchen? A quick audit of your cupboards may make you think again. Luckily, the market for plastic-free alternatives is growing at a rapid rate and there are now sustainable alternatives for many of the things likely to be lining your shelves. Here are just a few of them:

Straws: Join the legions of restaurants and bars ditching plastic straws. With paper, metal and bamboo-made varieties now available, it’s easier than ever.

Coffee cups: Carry your favourite reusable cup round with you and you’ll never have to use a plactic takeaway one again. You might save yourself some cash in the process, with many cafes now offering a discount for those using their own cups.

Bin liners: Not the most glamorous of discussion points, granted, but bin liners are almost always made out of plastic. Opt for biodegradeable alternatives.

Handwash: Wash your hands of single-use soap dispensers and opt for bars of soap instead.

Milk Bottles: Milk rounds are making a serious comeback – go back to glass.

Talking of milk…discover Mylkman’s nut milks which are supplied in reusable glass bottles and can be collected by Farmdroppers for reuse.

Meet the ethical innovators changing how we eat, drink and shop and meet the food initiatives fixing communities.

Go behind the scenes at Cub, arguably London’s most sustainable bar and restaurant.

Keep your eyes peeled at for some very special reusable coffee cups hitting the shop soon.


7 effortless all-natural kitchen spring cleaning hacks 

12th March 2018

Chemical-free spring cleaning tips and tricks made so easy, you wish you’d done them sooner.

Kitchen lovers, it’s that time of year again. Get ready to savour the spotless happy place that will be your kitchen after these cost-effective, all-natural spring cleaning tips.

1. Stainless steel: Put a bit of vinegar on it

7 effortlessly easy all-natural kitchen spring cleaning tips and tricks

Vinegar is acidic so it’s perfect to use anywhere where you want to get rid of smears and stains. Clean stainless steel by spraying distilled white vinegar mixed with equal parts of water. It’ll wipe out greasy surfaces, fingerprints and reduce limescale in no time, leaving you with shiny taps and mirrors.

You can also use it to get rid of the damp smell on clothes from your washing machine. With no clothes in the machine, pour half a mug of distilled white vinegar where fabric conditioner goes in, set it on a run at 90°C and follow up with a rinse. Just don’t reach for the balsamic .

2. Burnt pans: Cake them in bicarb

spring cleaning made easy

…or use lemon halves to brighten up copper pans. Photo: Natale Towell.

Sodium bicarbonate is a mild alkali and that can cause dirt and grease to dissolve easily in water. Save the outside of burned pans by covering the offending area with a thick layer of bicarbonate of soda and leaving it overnight. The brown bits should wipe off and use a scourer if there’s a bit of resistance.

For the inside of pans, try adding some water to the bicarb, heating the pan briefly with the solution in it and leaving it for 24 hours. Whilst suitable for stainless steel, cast-iron and non-stick pans, don’t do this on aluminium. For aluminium pans you can remove water tide marks by boiling water with sliced apple, rhubarb or lemon peel. For tough stains, boil three parts vinegar to one part water. To brighten up copper pan, use lemon halves dipped in salt or baking powder.

3. Ovens: Don’t reach for oven cleaner…

7 effortlessly easy all-natural kitchen spring cleaning tips and tricks

Who knew oven envy was a thing…

Reach for the bicarb (again) to degrease your oven. Not only will you avoid harsh chemicals, but you’ll also resist the need to invest in a biohazard suit.

Spread a paste of bicarb and water all over the inside surfaces of your oven, being careful to avoid the heating elements. Leave it overnight and wipe it all off with a damp cloth. You’ll probably need to give it a little elbow grease and spray some distilled white vinegar onto any soda residues. This will get it to gently foam up and make it easy to wipe away anything left.

4. High surfaces: Do the cloth trick

Baffled by how the top of cupboards get so dusty? Even more baffled by how to clean them? Lay a piece of cloth over the surface and when it comes to cleaning time, just carefully remove it, give it a shake outside and a wash.

Gone are the perilous days of scrubbing an area that you can’t really see properly and no one else will ever see, making the whole escapade feel like a total waste of time…

5. Larder: Fall in love with jars

7 effortlessly easy all-natural kitchen spring cleaning tips and tricks

Go on, give good kilner. Photo: Helen Cathcart.

Storing dry goods such as rice, pasta and lentils needn’t be a matter of shoving bags into an already jam-packed giant Tupperware. Show off your staples by investing in a few large kilner jars and artfully displaying them on a shelf.

No, this is not just a thing for other people with fancy kitchens. Not only will you be able to easily see what you’ve got in your larder, it’ll urge you to actually use it.

Pop a label on with the before before date and basic cooking instructions. Remember to do a little stock rotation too, i.e. decant what’s already in there first before adding the new stuff.

6. Crockery: If it’s chipped, chuck it

7 effortlessly easy all-natural kitchen spring cleaning tips and tricks

Chipped? Chuck it. It’s the crockery rule.

Unless you have a real attachment to something  – we’re talking about the mug that got you through university – get rid of any chipped crockery (and invest in some super-tough Duralex glasses).

They’re both a breeding ground for unwanted bacteria and a weak point that could lead to breakage mid-slurp. Sort through your cupboards and remove them from your kitchen. Go on, you can do it.

7. Spices and frozen foods: Be ruthless

7 effortlessly easy all-natural kitchen spring cleaning tips and tricks

If you haven’t seen it in a year, it’s time to get rid.

Spices lose their flavour over time. If you bought a giant pack of garam masala when travelling around Kerala in 2012 and it’s still in your kitchen, now’s the time to bin it.

Same goes for old mystery meats, stews and bread in your freezer over a year old. Sounds tough, but if you haven’t used by now, chances are you never will. Keep frozen ground meats for up to four months and frozen cooked meat up for to three months.

Don’t forget: after you’ve taken a lazy afternoon to give these all-natural spring cleaning ideas a go, pour yourself a much deserved cup of tea / coffee / negroni and enjoy the fruits of your low-labour efforts.

Replenish your larder and pick up essential eco cleaning products at

Treat your shelf to some DIY pantry goodies such homemade kombucha, tahini, mayonnaise and apple cider vinegar.

Treat yourself post-spring cleaning to one of these beautifully simple gin cocktails with a twist.


10 best London wine bars to try something new by the glass

9th March 2018

Bored of bland wine lists? Want to try something new but don’t know where to begin? Tired of coughing up for an expensive bottle you don’t enjoy? Here’s a London wine bar guide to help you broaden your horizons.

These are the guys breaking the mould with intrepid wine lists, bold advice and by-the-glass tastings that won’t break the bank.

Something for everyone: Noble Rot, Bloomsbury

Wine by the glass: Top 10 London wine bars try something new

Can we pour you a glass? The team at Noble Rot on Lamb’s Conduit Street.

Noble Rot Restaurant & Wine Bar in Bloomsbury is something of an institution for wine lovers. Their wine list, which won Wine List Of The Year at the 2017 and 2016 National Restaurant Awards, is a thing to behold. Delve into it for an education into the world’s main grape varieties that turns preconceptions on their head, touting Chardonnay as the ‘world’s greatest white wine’, and pinot noir as the ‘heartbreak grape’. Their extensive by-the-glass list varies wildly in price from about £7 to £80 so there’s something for every budget. Follow @noblerotbar for some extra-curricular swotting.

Carefully curated: Nuala, Old Street

Wine by the glass: Top 10 London wine bars try something new

Enjoy a feast with your wine at Nuala.

The new London wine bar on the block, Nuala, is an open-fire restaurant just off Old Street with a killer wine list that make it worth visiting just for that. Curated by sommelier Honey Spencer, previously of Noma Mexico and Sager & Wilde in East London, the wines are an eclectic mix of cult classics as well as an exploration into new wine regions from Slovenia to Austria, Greece to the Czech Republic.

“Many of these wines are naturally lighter and lower in alcohol with new and exciting flavours. Guests come in to try something new, which is amazing for us. It really feels like we’re offering something different.” says Honey. Follow @honeyspencer_ for plenty more wine inspo.

Go wild for natural wine:

P. Franco, Lower Clapton, Ducksoup, Soho and The Little Duck Picklery, Dalston

Wine by the glass: Top 10 London wine bars try something new

Handpicked wines at Ducksoup, Soho. Photo: Kristin Perers

A neighbourhood wine shop-cum-bar, P. Franco in Hackney has earned its stripes as one of the best places to try wine in London. Natural wines is their thing, and with an ever-changing rotation of reds, whites and orange wines by-the-glass, go prepared for a glass of something unexpected. Phil Bracey is the guy in charge, and is always about to give advice. “In essence, we just want people to have fun when they visit us. Come in for a glass, a bottle, a snack or a meal. There is no formality to it”.

Ducksoup in Soho and sister-restaurant The Little Duck Picklery in Dalston do a similar thing by offering wines from a few trusted importers as well as some they personally import themselves. Rory McCoy manages the whole process; “these wines sit well outside conventional wine-making, so rather than the regular whites and reds, we offer a range of sparkling, oranges and rosés. There’s such a scope of colours and flavours – it’s impossible not to try something new.”

Best in British: London Cru, Fulham and Roast, Borough Market

Wine by the glass: Top 10 London wine bars try something new

Albemarle St Albarino anyone? Made from grapes pressed in London’s first winery, London Cru.

UK wines have been enjoying a renaissance in the past decade, with more winemakers cropping up with new, award-winning vintages. For something close to home, London Cru are good place to start. A true purveyor of London wine, they produce all their wines in Fulham using a mixture of European and English grapes. Their fresh, floral Baker St. Bacchus hails from Bacchus grapes grown in Essex and Kent, and is as good an intro as any to English white wine.

Check out their sister online company, Roberson Wines, who run regular, affordable tastings at the London Cru winery. You’ll find most high-end restaurants around London offer at least one sparkling English wine, while Noble Rot (see above) offer a good selection too, but if you fancy a go at English reds, whites and rosés, head to Roast restaurant at Borough Market. Or find out how English winemakers are breaking the mould here.

Self serve: The rise of enomatic machine:

Vagabond Wines, various locations, Kensington Wine Rooms and Hedonism Wines, Mayfair

Wine by the glass: Top 10 London wine bars try something new

Take your pick at Vagabond Wines.

On a mission “to break down barriers within the wine world”, Vagabond’s by-the-glass self-service machines are all about showcasing small, indie winemakers and undiscovered wine regions with a choice of about 100 wines to try at any one time. As a London wine with six locations across the capital, they’re one of the most accessible places to visit too.

“We want to help our customers try good value wine while giving lesser-known regions a chance to shine. There are some really good wines out there – we’re loving the wines coming from Washington state in the US. This summer, we’ll be putting more focus on new rosés, showing off regions, like Rioja and Penedès from Spain, and launching our first vintage of Vagabond English Pinot Noir rosé from our new urban winery in Battersea Power Station”, says Vagabond’s Wine Buyer, Mark Flounders.

Enomatic machines that allow you to sample as many wines as you like at a small price make it an affordable way to try undiscovered vintages without breaking the bank (money is loaded up on a card so you can spend as you go) and the trend towards self-service wine bars is growing.

Check out Kensington Wine Rooms who offer an extensive, well-curated list of classic and newcomer wines to try, as well as affordable tastings. Hedonism in Mayfair is more pricey but great if you’re looking for a drop-in tasting that’s a little more niche.

Going out? Try London’s best sustainable cocktail bars and cosy pubs and restaurants.

Swot up on natural wine, zero waste wine and 10 common wine myths by the most respected wine critic in the world, Jancis Robinson.

Tuck into seasonal food and wine pairings to dine on this month.


5 of the best restaurants to build a country weekend break around

28th February 2018

Desperate for a foodie getaway? Feast on five hand-picked delectable destinations just two hours (or so, ish) from London worth building the ultimate country weekend break staycation around. So go on, book that Friday off and make plans for a game-changer of a dinner-meets-weekend away. Your inner chef deserves it.

1. The Sportsman, Whitstable

5 best restaurants to build a country weekend break around near London

The Sportsman: the best ‘grotty rundown pub by the sea’ you’ll ever eat at.

When this pub was crowned National Restaurant of the Year 2016, it left it’s chef/patron Stephen Harris ‘gobsmacked’. It won again in 2017 and was also named Gastropub of the Year for the second time in a row. The only non-London restaurant to make it into the top five, you can find the Michelin starred-pub on the windswept barren beauty of the Seasalter coast. Self-taught cook Steven swapped a career in finance in 1996 for a professional kitchen and three years later landed near his home town of Whitstable.

Previously a self-proclaimed ‘grotty rundown pub by the sea’ (via their Twitter bio, now minus the words grotty and rundown), Stephen used ingredients he could see from his kitchen window long before the farm-to-fork movement hit the mainstream, saying: “This bit of salt marsh on the north Kent coast was owned by the kitchens of Canterbury Cathedral, and for more than a thousand years it was the larder for this area, so it seemed right to use the land.”

Now equipped with a small kitchen garden, his dishes let native ingredients do the talking with beautiful finesse. Whether going a la carte and or for the excellent value daily tasting menu, dine on Whitstable Native Oysters, slip sole grilled in seaweed butter and round it off with a rosehip ice lolly. Book far in advance and don’t forget to take a trip down the coast to see the sights, shops and sounds of Whitstable seafront too.

Getting there: 1hr 40mins by car from central London.

Find it: The Sportsman, Faversham Road, Seasalter, Whitstable, Kent, CT5 4BP

2. 64 Degrees, Brighton

5 best restaurants to build a country weekend break around near London

Truffle tagliatelle with confit egg yolk at 64 Degrees, Brighton.

Tucked away in the Brighton Lanes, 64 Degrees is a tiny restaurant serving small plates using fresh, local produce from an open kitchen. Founded by chef Michael Bremner (a Great British Menu finalist), his award-winning kitchen sits bang in the middle of the seating area. Perch on a high stool — one of only 27 seats — and you’ll see every slice and dice as you sit at the pass.

There are just 16 plates to choose from — four of each meat, veg, fish and sweet — and its relaxed muted interior leaves space to focus on all the drama happening before your eyes. The co-creator behind dishes such as ‘tongue, pea, jowl’ and ‘celeriac, chestnut, yolk’, head chef Sam Lambert says: ‘we just stick to local, and the fact we’re face to face with customers means we can tell them exactly what’s in the food’. And the name? We hear it pays tribute to the optimum temperature for poaching an egg.

Getting there: 1hr train ride from Victoria + 10 mins walk

Find it: 64 Degrees, 53 Meeting House Lane, Brighton BN1 1HB

3. Hartnett Holder & Co at Lime Wood Hotel, New Forest

5 best restaurants to build a country weekend break around near London

Hole up for the weekend at Hartnett Holder & Co in the New Forest. Photo: Áamy Murrell.

If you weren’t aware already, Angela Hartnett’s cooking is an Italian-inspired tour de force (pop to Murano and you’ll know what we mean). Hartnett Holder & Co is the restaurant of the luxury country-house Lime Wood hotel set in 145 square miles of ancient heath in the heart of the New Forest and makes for an idyllic epicurean country weekend break.

Together with chef Luke Holder, Angela and the team create locally sourced Italian dishes with a respectful nod to the seasons. Pretentious fine dining and big plates are out and home cooked sharing plates are in. Expect dishes such as fresh wild garlic, served simply with gnocchi, Parmesan and pine nuts or a cashew nut hummus (as spotted on Instagram). Complete with cosy wood fires, oak interiors, and an onsite smoke house, handily there’s a sumptuous bed you can roll into after dinner.

Getting there: approx 2hr drive from central London

Find it: Lime Wood Hotel, Beaulieu Road, Lyndhurst, Hampshire SO43 7FZ

Honorary mention: The Pig, Brockenhurst

Sister hotel of Lime Wood, it’s another fine example of the right amount of glamour needed to make a time-precious country weekend break go with a bang. Expect locally sourced and foraged ingredients with a story without any old-fashioned stiffness. Its menu is uncomplicated seasonal British garden food influenced by the forest and coast and all to enjoy in a stunning country house.

Getting there: approx 2hr drive from central London

Find it: Beaulieu Road, Brockenhurst, Hampshire, SO42 7QL

4. Hand & Flowers, Marlow

5 best restaurants to build a country weekend break around near London

Fancy an Essex lamb “bun” and a pint?

Zoom down the M40 and you can be at chef Tom Kerridge’s Hand and Flowers  – the only pub in the UK to hold two Michelin stars  –  in just over an hour from central London. Located in the Georgian town of Marlow, there’s a little whimsy to be experienced amongst it’s chocolate-box pretty, winding historic streets along the Thames. A thoroughly modern British pub that you can stay over in, Tom and his wife opened in 2005 with the idea of it being a place they’d like to go on their day off. Now it’s a place that folk from around the world are desperate to visit on their day off.

The menu’s focus is on making the most of the best seasonal ingredients with little fuss and lots of charm. Dishes include lovage soup to start, and an Essex lamb “bun” for a main and chocolate and ale cake to finish. Book a table in advance or if you prefer to be spontaneous on a country weekend break, head to his second non-bookable pub called The Coach, also in Marlow.

Getting there: 1hr 10 mins drive from central London, or 1hr 30mins by train and bus

Find it: The Hand and Flowers, 126 West Street, Marlow SL7 2BP

5. The Ethicurean, Bristol

5 best restaurants to build a country weekend break around near London

Dine overlooking an exquisite Victorian walled garden and the Mendip Hills at The Ethicurean.

The Ethicurean is a must-visit destination for arguably the most beautiful setting to eat in on a country weekend break in Somerset. Focussed on sourcing ingredients from the nearby fields, forests and orchards that surround their garden, its philosophy is simple: “eat local, celebrate native foods, live well.”

Its story began when friends Jack Adair Bevan, Paula Zarate and brothers Ian and Matthew Pennington met working at farmers’ markets. They took a shine to an apple business at Barley Wood Walled Garden and its conservatory-style cafe was available to rent too. Together, they grabbed the opportunity and use everything from its bursting vegetable and herb patches to make their own vermouths, fermentations and of course, apple juice. Expect vibrant dishes such as cucumber with labneh at lunch to a scones adorned with jam made from their walls which ‘drip with fruit’ for an afternoon tea break. Check out their cookbook to try their dishes at home.

Getting there: 2hrs 40mins drive from London (okay it’s not 2hours, but you need to go!)

Find it: The Ethicurean, Barley Wood Walled Garden, Long Lane, Wrington, Bristol, BS40 5SA

In need a rural escape that requires a flight? Take a look at our top 8 international farm stay holidays guaranteed to beat winter blues.


Meet the innovators waging a war on wine waste

26th February 2018

Meet the inventive folk reducing waste in winemaking and turning wine waste in quaffable treasure.

The bar at the WastED London pop up on the rooftop at Selfridges. Photo: Andrew Meredith

It turns out we chuck away a lot of wine. Collectively, UK households pour down the drain 333 Olympic swimming pools’ worth of wine per year. On average, that’s two glasses of wine per week per household. And a lot of vinegar we could otherwise be making.

Tag on the implications of packaging, when only 50% of glass containers are recycled, and when bars, restaurants and pubs account for 200,000 tonnes of glass reaching landfill, you know we’ve got a problem.

Thankfully, certain clever folks around the world are coming up with innovative ways to help save more wine and cut down on packaging, from distilling mouth-swills, to forgoing bottles altogether. Here’s what they’ve been up to fight wine waste.

Glass? That’s a bit 16th Century

Le Grappin embrace wine in a bag.

You may have seen Andrew Nielsen and his Le Grappin wines doing the rounds at farmers’ markets across London. Andrew likes to do things differently and sells his wine in a bag. Why is this better? The seal means the wine keeps fresh weeks after opening and uses 80% fewer carbon emissions than glass bottles by virtue of its production. In a similar vein, St John ­– the much-loved restaurant – sell their own Languedoc white, red, and rose in an easily recyclable cardboard box.

‘Wasted’ wine roulette. Fancy a flutter?

The drinks list at Dan Barber’s WastED pop-up featured ‘wastED chances instant vermouth’ and was printed on paper made from agave pulp leftover from tequila production.

Dan Barber, the celebrated American chef who’s all about rethinking the future of what we eat and how we grow it, ran a pop up called wastED on Selfridge’s rooftop last year. It was an education on how we unconsciously neglect food and wine too. As a kind of lucky dip, diners would order a ‘wasted’ wine for a set price, for the server to come back with a bottle not deemed easily sellable in restaurants, shops, or bars. Whether it happened to be a vintage reserve claret, or a naff Sauvignon (which you were welcome to send back to the kitchen to be made into vermouth to be enjoyed in a cocktail), was down to fate. It makes you think: restaurant cellars often house hundreds of bins. But what happens to the wines never picked?

Cuvée on keg

Refilling a red at Borough Wines.

‘Wine on tap’ might sound like something devised for the desperate rather than the discerning. But merchants like Borough Wines are doing a lot to change that by helping bars and restaurants put quality wines on their draught lists. Good news for the punters, but also for the environment – each keg saves 16kg of glass production and disposal, while kegs can be used over and over again. It’s such a revolutionary way of doing things that Borough Wines have rolled out a similar system in their shops, whereby customers can fill and refill store-bought clip top bottles straight from the barrel.

Buckets of backwash

The aptly named Kissing a Stranger grappa made from wine spat out by guests at two-day wine tasting. Photo: Poor Tom’s Gin Distillery.

When is spitting not bad manners? Try a wine festival where judges eject wine into a bucket after they’ve tasted it. One year at Rootstock, a wine festival in Sydney, it was noted how much booze was being wasted in this way. The next year, organisers collected 500 litres of spat out wine, beer, and whisky. This was mixed, then distilled (during which, boiling kills any unwanted bacterium) to become grappa aptly named Kissing a Stranger. The results: A fruity-noted liquor with a wonderful mouthfeel, and an idea that looks set to become Rootstock tradition. Could other festivals and competitions follow suit?

Water into wine, wine into fuel

Due to an unpredictable market, surplus is a massive problem in the wine industry. It’s a spicy vanilla merlot one minute, then a tropical-noted chardonnay the next. Meanwhile, we continue to pump our planet for unrenewable energy. Though the two seem somewhat unrelated, a facility in California is taking both issues head-on ­­– Parallel Products is in the business of turning unsellable wine into fuel by way of distillation and fermentation. That means that, maybe, one day a forgotten Chablis will power your car.

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