Monday, 9 September 2019

WSET Level 2 Wine Course - October 2019


This course is intended for those with little previous experience in the field of wines and aims to provide information on the most prominent information appearing on the label of a bottle of wine. Students will be introduced to the main styles of wines produced by key grape varieties and a number of wine regions. By the end of the course delegates will be able identify from the information on wine labels what most wines taste like. 

Session topics cover:

understanding influences on the style, quality and price of wines
understand basic label terminology
name and describe the character of the important grape varieties and the style of wines produced
identify key countries and regions for wine production of wine and their main wine styles
identify the main types of fortified wines 
describe wines using the Level 2 Systematic Approach to Tasting
give advice on storage and service of wine and food matching
understand the importance of alcohol in moderation




WSET Level 2  Session Overview


Session   1:  Introduction – course and examination, tasting 
technique, food and wine matching, health and alcohol and wine faults.

Session   2:  Factors influencing style of wine, and label
terminology.

Session   3:  Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. 

Session   4: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc.

Session   5: Syrah, Grenache and Riesling.

Session   6: Italy, Spain and Portugal.

Session   7: Sparkling and sweet wines.

Session   8: Fortified wines and spirits and liqueurs.

Session   9: Examination (50-question multiple-choice paper).


WSET Level 2 Wine Course - September 2019



This course is intended for those with little previous experience in the field of wines and aims to provide information on the most prominent information appearing on the label of a bottle of wine. Students will be introduced to the main styles of wines produced by key grape varieties and a number of wine regions. By the end of the course delegates will be able identify from the information on wine labels what most wines taste like. 

Session topics cover:
understanding influences on the style, quality and price of wines
understand basic label terminology
name and describe the character of the important grape varieties and the style of wines produced
identify key countries and regions for wine production of wine and their main wine styles
identify the main types of fortified wines 
describe wines using the Level 2 Systematic Approach to Tasting
give advice on storage and service of wine and food matching
understand the importance of alcohol in moderation


WSET Level 2  Session Overview


Session   1:  Introduction – course and examination, tasting technique, food and wine matching, health and alcohol and wine faults.

Session   2:  Factors influencing style of wine, and label terminology.

Session   3:  Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. 

Session   4: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc.

Session   5: Syrah, Grenache and Riesling.

Session   6: Italy, Spain and Portugal.

Session   7: Sparkling and sweet wines.

Session   8: Fortified wines and spirits and liqueurs.

Session   9: Examination (50-question multiple-choice paper).


Friday, 30 August 2019

BULLYING MUST NOT BE TOLERATED

At the time of writing, students across the country have been celebrating their success and, in some cases licking their wounds, as they nervously obtain their examination results. For many it will spell the advent of a new stage in their life, as they gain the grades required to begin realising their dream, or are prompted to change direction, which can sometimes be a good thing. Personally, I have always embraced change, believing that even when things do not go according to plan I can learn from the experience; at the last count I was on my fifth career and still going strong. As we become older and more experienced, with the appropriate support of course, most of us are able gain the skills necessary to dodge the brickbats that life throws at us.

As a Samaritan though, I am all too aware that as we progress through life there are often significant challenges to be faced. Distressingly, I know that in the coming weeks and months when I am on Samaritans duty with my colleagues that the number of calls from young people in distress will increase.

At this particular time of year there are many young people for whom change will be a welcome release, as they move to a new school perhaps, onto university or into employment. For many though such change will bring about a high level of apprehension in relation to the new environment. Much has been written about bullying in our schools, colleges and the workplace recently, and all are now required to have policies in place, but it is not as simple as that. For young people especially, bullying, in all its forms, can be devastating in its relentless pursuit of a weak point in their armour; whether it is through physical abuse, name calling, trolling on social media, or being excluded in some way. For those of us who are responsible for the welfare of young and vulnerable people it is vital that we are vigilant in spotting the signs that the effects of bullying can have on them, either through a change in behaviour or an unwillingness to participate and engage in some way. It can be difficult to take action because of the the reluctance to come forward and the fear of repercussions, but it is not something that should be tolerated on any level, by anyone. We have a duty of care to hold those responsible for the care of our youngsters to account when it comes to this vile practice.

HORTON FLOWER SHOW - COMMUNITY COHESION


Since moving to this area over 30 years ago, one of the things I have appreciated most is the strong sense of community; the way in which people work together, often for free, to achieve a common cause.

In the case of Horton, I well remember the ceaseless, untiring efforts to raise funds for the new village hall, and the small part I was able to play in that. It hardly seems credible that it was 10 years ago; what a huge success it has been.

During the summer months I especially like to participate in the many activities taking place. As I am usually fully committed on the work front in July and August it is difficult, but this year, rather at the last minute, I decided once again to enter ‘The Flower Show’.

I am not the world’s best baker, largely because it is not something that particularly interests me, so I decided not to enter a Victoria sandwich cake; the omnipresent stalwart of all village shows. A bit of trivia for you – apart from the Queen Vic connection (she was partial to the odd slice or two, as her expanding girth showed all too well) Victoria sandwich cakes really took off with the advent of baking powder, created by Alfred Bird (of Bird’s custard powder fame) and because of its sensitivity to temperature, oven manufacturers use the recipe to test their ovens.

So, never one for doing things by half, I got rather carried away and ended up entering a total of 15 items; baking, jam making, photography and flower arranging. Oh, the stress of it all! Trying to produce tempting, yummy, perfect specimens sufficient to impress the judges, is far from simple. I have a tiny, ill-equipped kitchen, and for some baked goods it is better to have produced them on the day. Hence, many hours spent burning the midnight oil, then up at the crack of dawn. Trial and error, trial and error…… three batches of chocolate chip cookies!

Come the day of judgement, I was absolutely thrilled not just to have gained three 1st places, and three 3rds, but also to have won the Roy Grinter salver for the most points in the cookery classes and the Bindon Cup for the most points in the cookery and preserves classes. To say that I was thrilled is the understatement of the year!

During the afternoon, as I watched the crowds milling-around I could not help but notice that the majority of us were what one might describe as being of a ‘certain age’, and middle class. I worry that we have a lost generation for whom learning to cook, at home or at school, has been superseded by the popularity of take-aways and ready meals.

Then there is the cost of entering village shows. The high cost of electricity to keep the oven going, in addition to the baking ingredients required, are likely to be beyond the budget of many people, especially those on low incomes or those struggling to get by on a pension.

In the coming year I am going to put on my thinking cap to see if I can find a way to address this imbalance, in the interests of maintaining that all important community cohesion and inclusion, and a sense of belonging.

Friday, 2 August 2019

Eastbury Hotel Seasons Restaurant Visit






Although familiar with Sherborne, I have not had the opportunity to visit recently, so having had a look at the menu on offer from chef Matthew Street, I admit that I jumped at the chance of giving Seasons restaurant at The Eastbury Hotel the once over, taking along a friend so that we could try as many dishes as possible. We had not reserved and on a sunny day there were just half a dozen other diners at lunchtime.

Billed as ‘comfort and elegance wrapped in West Country charm’ the hotel is situated along a quiet street, away from the hustle and bustle of this popular town centre, yet within easy walking distance.

The restaurant, which boasts 2 AA rosettes, is formal but not stuffy, and benefits from well-spaced tables. Located at the rear of the hotel, almost every diner is able to enjoy a view of the walled garden, with the bonus of a delightful terrace for al fresco dining.

As well as a range of comfortable sitting rooms for residents’ use, adjacent to the restaurant is a small bar, and it was good to see that wines by the glass were well priced. I especially enjoyed a small glass of the French Pinot Noir on offer at just £4.30.

I eat out around 5 times per week and love to try different flavours, usually preferring several small dishes to a main course, and the menu, although not huge, did not disappoint. I loved it that many of the dishes were offered in two sizes; what a great idea.

The food on offer had some interesting options alongside familiar favourites to please the less adventurous palate (burger, steak, fish and chips). There is clearly a focus on using local ingredients, supplemented by fresh produce from the vegetable patch on site.

The menu is à la carte and the same for both lunch and evening dining, with the addition of a 6-course tasting menu at night, at £45, plus £25 for wines to match each course, as well as a daily ‘nursery food’ option, which was sausages and mash on our visit.

Tucking into focaccia and olive bread with an unusual ‘tomato’ butter whilst we perused the menu, we opted to share three of the ‘small’ plates (£10) and were pleasantly surprised by the size of the portions.

We enjoyed the crisp bruschetta, which was topped with flavoursome tomatoes, basil and feta; the squid, with aioli and fennel pollen, was the best I have had in a long time, light and crisp, and the venison arancini with Old Winchester cheese was very moreish; I do eat quickly so I managed to snaffle the most! Almost full by then, but undeterred, we sampled a small Caesar salad (enough for a hungry person), with smoked chicken, pecorino and crispy pancetta, which was competently made, and a delicious Vale of Camelot cheese brulée with chicory, celeriac and candied walnuts.

The side orders of chips (really good, crisp on the outside and fluffy within) with truffle mayonnaise to add a bit of luxury to the experience, and a simple salad of peas, with spankingly fresh green beans, soft goat’s cheese, mint and lemon oil was truly delicious and good value for money.
Not to be outdone, and by now well into my second glass of wine, Sherborne Castle rosé (I was not driving), we plumped for a sticky toffee pudding, with clotted cream.  

The bill, for three glasses of wine, three tasting dishes, a starter, a small salad, plus two side dishes, and a pud (phew!), came to just £54 (£27 a head) which we both felt was a real bargain. Personally, I cannot wait to return to try the tasting menu.

Key highlights – notably consistent standard throughout, with good use of seasonal, local ingredients, all well prepared and presented, and accurately seasoned.
Breakfast – 7am - 9.30am (midweek) 8am - 10am (weekends)
Lunch – 12pm - 2pm
Afternoon Tea – 2.30pm - 5.30pm (24-hours notice required)
Dinner – 6.30pm - 9pm
Long St, Sherborne DT9 3BY
01935 813131


As a professional chef, and in her capacity as a food and wine writer and hospitality standards consultant, Linda Piggott-Vijeh has been advising the industry for over 30 years and, to ensure impartiality, she always pays for her own meals.
If you would like to receive a mystery visit from Linda, or recommend a local pub, restaurant or café, then contact Max at info@thevisitormagazine.co.uk

Article as seen in The Visitor Magazine - August 2019

Friday, 26 July 2019

IS THIS TOLLING THE DEATH KNELL OF OUR ANCIENT CHURCHES?


As a local councillor I pride myself on a level of consistency when representing the local community. My words and actions may not always find universal favour, but I hope that I am respected for my ability to be objective and fair. In the day job as a hotel and restaurant inspector it is imperative to be objective; personal preference does not come into it. Rather, it is the ability to stand back and look at the evidence and make a judgement on that basis.


It is a sad reflection of our modern-day society that the only time that local residents show an interest in the business of their local council is when they are dissatisfied; and boy can they kick up a fuss. Rightly so, as it is their taxpayers’ money that funds both elected members, and the officers who take decisions.

When it comes to local planning, it can be almost impossible for those living and working in the communities most likely to be affected to be objective. Although not as simple as it once was, an elected member of a ward can ‘call in’ a decision by the planning officer, for consideration by elected area members at their monthly meeting, although nowadays the Chair of the Area Committee veto this. However, should it go to committee, and the recommendation is to overturn the officer’s decision, the backstop position is for referral to the Regulation Committee, comprised of elected members from across the district, and which effectively acts as judge and jury. With me so far?

Whilst the threat of planning appeal decisions and the lack of a 5-year land supply hangs over our heads like some ghostly spectre, there is an increasing level of frustration and discontent at the inconsistency of decisions being made.

This has recently been the case in Ashill, one of the villages I represent. Recently, approval was refused for an application for just three properties, despite it gaining universal support across the community. The reasons given were the unsustainability of the village, and the proposed development’s ‘negative impact on the local environmental amenity’. So far so good, except that a few months prior to this decision, a much larger development was given approval. Apparently, the benefits of having an additional 25 properties in the heart of the village, without any proven local need, far outweighs any adverse impact. Should we ignore then SSDC’s Environmental Strategy, being compiled in haste, in favour of the additional car journeys this will necessitate? Walking along the A358 to get to Ilminster indicates a death wish.

A key reason for approval was the apparent sustainability of the village. There is admittedly a primary school, but no shop, doctor, or any other amenity, a bus that runs just 5 times per week, a pub which is closed and has been up for sale for some time, and a church.

Ah yes, the church. Built in the 10th century, and according to the National Planning Policy Framework, we must have ‘special regard for preserving the setting, which is the essential part’ of this ancient historic Grade 2* listed building’s character.

Hence, collective astonishment earlier this month as those present witnessed the approval of a further 10 properties, in a field adjacent to the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

SSDC’s own website states, ‘The historic environment is an essential part of South Somerset's rich cultural heritage; contributing to the sense of identity and quality of life in the district, the local economy and the well-being of our residents and visitors. Whether in the form of individual buildings, archaeological sites, historic market towns or landscapes, the conservation of this heritage and sustaining it for the benefit of future generations is an important aspect of the role we play on behalf of the community. The components of the historic environment are known as 'Heritage Assets'. These are buildings, monuments, sites, areas or landscapes identified as having a degree of significance meriting consideration in planning decisions.’

In the face of this extraordinary decision should we be fearful for the future of our ancient heritage sites? We should be afraid, very afraid.


Thursday, 18 July 2019

PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH



It seems ironic that having spent time at South Somerset District Council’s offices in Yeovil attending the Scrutiny task and finish group, looking at the overarching themes and focus for the new Environment Strategy, that one of the issues raised was waste and re-cycling; shortly after the session I stopped by the council’s onsite restaurant, Chambers, for a quick bit to eat, only to witness the two ladies who work there outside the building picking up .... litter! Whilst I believe that we should embrace the ‘save the planet’ agenda, I could not help but think that before we start laying down the law for others, we should put our own house in order first.

When it comes to re-cycling, we seem to have learnt nothing at all from being in Europe. I am hard pressed to think of a less efficient way to re-cycle than having lorries going from door to door, and I fail to understand why we do not pressure supermarkets into doing more.    

Putting my thoughts on that issue aside, the key points raised by those involved in the ‘engagement’ activity we undertook included emphasis on increasing healthy activity, for which read walking or cycling to work. I admit that I am not much one for exercise, and certainly not outdoors in the middle of winter. In my own case though my challenges are twofold; I am often lugging around a large amount of luggage, which it would be difficult to transport either on foot or by bicycle, and given that my working day is regularly in the region of 12 hours, time is of the essence when getting from one activity to another. It is just not feasible for me to take extra time to either wait for public transport (if it existed) or get to my destination by a healthier, slower, mode of transport.

As part of the green agenda, the topic of energy was also raised. Despite the desire to reduce our energy consumption, and where possible generate our own, there is apparently no legislation in place to require developers to install solar panels or electric charging points for vehicles. In my experience very few builders will be willing the install such measures of their own fee will, citing the additional cost to build.

And finally, now that I am on my soapbox, children have put local shopping at top of their agenda when it comes to reducing our carbon footprint. It would seem to me, as a child of the 50s, we have come full circle, before plastic bags and large supermarkets, when we all shopped locally, buying local produce in season, and got our pocket money through the refunds we received when returning empty lemonade bottles. We only have ourselves to blame for the demise of our local shops; and only we can change that.