lifestyle

Finally, an event for wine lovers to savour

Birmingham's first major wine festival takes place this weekend. Co-organiser Ian Harvey tells Mary Griffin he hopes the festival will educate drinkers and inspire the city's restaurateurs

Ian Harvey and Amy Seton

The first Birmingham Wine Festival will offer unlimited tastings of up to 300 wines and Champagnes at the Hyatt hotel this weekend.

Launching tomorrow, with an afternoon and evening session on Friday and Saturday, the event hopes to draw 2,000 wine lovers, with Birmingham independents Connolly’s and Loki Wine among the exhibitors.

The idea was sparked 12 months ago when Ian Harvey of The Wine Tasting Company and Moseley resident Amy Seton, who launched The Food and Drinks Events Company earlier this year, got talking about Birmingham’s wine scene.

Ian says: “We were both wondering why no one was doing this in Birmingham already.

“Every other major city in the UK has a major wine festival. But I think many people still look on Birmingham as a second-rate city, and they’ve been going to Leeds, Manchester, Edinburgh and Bristol without appreciating the fact that we’ve got such an amazing offering here.

“We have now developed such a strong gourmet reputation with four Michelin star restaurants that it’s a brilliant opportunity to start pushing for something more.”

The festival is exploiting Birmingham’s food scene by offering three exclusive tasting menus, serving each to just 10 diners for £75.

Richard Turner, of Harborne’s Michelin-starred Turner’s restaurant, will be creating six dishes on Friday afternoon and evening, each paired with a different wine.

Steve Love of Loves restaurant will be showcasing local produce, matching each of his dishes with an English wine, and on Saturday a third wine-matched menu will be delivered by Didier Philpot, head chef at Edmunds.

Festival masterclasses will include tutored tastings in English sparkling wines, Indian wines, port and others.

Ian says: “We’ve got an incredibly strong food scene and there’s no reason we shouldn’t have an equally strong wine scene – but at the moment we don’t. However, some of the city’s pioneers in cuisine have tried to push the boundaries in terms of wine.

“Glynn Purnell previously had a standard restaurant bar at Purnell’s but now he has taken that out and brought in a sommelier’s table in its place to showcase the wines available.

“Similarly, Loves restaurant has championed English sparkling wines, taking Champagne off their menu and throwing their weight purely behind English sparkling wines and wines by the glass.

“Commercially that’s a very bold thing to do and they’re doing a brilliant job.

“I want to see wine lists change in the city’s restaurants to become more adventurous and to start offering an awful lot more wine by the glass.

“Look at the European model and some of the best restaurants in the world, outside of Europe, and you see that a really good by-the-glass offering is hugely important.”

Among the examples quoted by Ian is one of the top chefs in Paris, Alain Senderens, who gave back his three Michelin stars saying he wanted to concentrate on running a restaurant to his own set of standards.

One of the first changes Senderens made at his eponymous eatery was to introduce 19 by-the-glass recommended wines, each matched to one of the 19 dishes on his menu.

“That worked,” says Ian, “because people need to be led when it comes to wine.

“People are really scared of wine but it’s like anything else – you talk to an expert and learn from their recommendations.

“And that’s what we hope to offer at the festival, an opportunity to talk to suppliers, producers and experts.

“I want people to walk away with a better appreciation and more understanding of wine – not going back to the supermarket and buying Jacob’s Creek and Echo Falls! But if people walk away from it with nothing more than knowing why they like what they like that would be great.

“We’re going to have wines from £5 to £40 and there are going to be hundreds of people coming here simply because they want to explore their palates. That’s very exciting.

“This is a first for Birmingham and it’s long overdue.”

* See www.birminghamwinefestival.com

Local produce is showcased

Birmingham food enterprises will be flying the flag for the city at this weekend’s Good Food Show.

Among exhibitors at the NEC, three ventures will be showing off produce from within Birmingham’s boundaries.

The Mini-Jar Company, set up in owner Lin’s kitchen, will be at the show with its homemade chutneys, vinegars and oils using locally-sourced ingredients.

Family run curry house The Purple Rooms will be at the show for the first time, sharing dishes from its menu.

Founded in 1988, the Hall Green restaurant recently celebrated manager Hesan Faiz Choudhury being named UK Young Restaurateur of the Year at the Asian Curry Awards.

And the mother-and-daughter team behind Afia’s Samosa Shop will also be showcasing their products, specialising in wheat and gluten free food from their kitchen in Nechells.

Hand-crafted spirits

Harborne venue The Plough has added a range of hand-crafted spirits and liqueurs from around the world to its bar.

Celebrating the movement of craft distilling (or micro distilling) which grew from the micro-brewing trend, the Plough has traded in bottles from well-known brands and replaced them with tipples from up-and-coming independents.

The announcement on The Plough’s website reads: “You may no longer see all those well known super brands behind our bar that churn out half a million bottles every day and have advertising budgets to match. What you will see is products that are made with love and passion.”

New appearances include Dorset’s Black Cow vodka, the world’s first vodka made from Milk, Ryoma Japanese rum, and Monkey 47 gin from the Black Forest.

Bars make Shortlist

Two Birmingham bars have been nominated among 30 of the UK’s most highly-rated new venues in the Pints and Pistachios by men’s lifestyle magazine Shortlist.

Pure Bar and Kitchen, the new Waterloo Street enterprise backed by Warwickshire’s Purity Brewing Company and Andreas Antona of Michelin-star restaurant Simpsons, is in the line up alongside The Church Inn in Great Hampton Street, a traditional boozer that has been revamped by Birmingham’s Soul Food Project with a roof terrace and a rolling schedule of unusual food and music events.

Votes can be cast online at shortlist.com and voters will be in with a chance of winning a case of beer or a visit to Meantime Beer’s Greenwich brewery.

Oven makes debut

A new portable wood fired oven is getting its debut this weekend at the Bearwood Shuffle.

The music event, launched in 2011 and named after the “shuffle” function on an MP3 player, returns to Lightswood Park bandstand on Sunday and the Jewellery Quarter’s new Peel and Stone bakery will be there with their new mobile bakery.

Since its launch the enterprise has been making waves with, alongside its trademark sourdough, pulled pork baps, bone marrow buns and salted caramel doughnuts.

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