We served some delicious wines at our December supperclub, which was inspired by Delia Smith. We thought we’d do a bit of a blog post on them in case you want to treat yourself this Christmas. We were keen to use a local wine and were intrigued by Leeds’ own Leventhorpe vineyard, located just outside Woodlesford in south Leeds.
Most people look at me aghast when I say we served Leeds wine. Most think that either it’s impossible to produce wine so far North, or that it’s going to taste disgusting! In fact wine has been produced in Leeds for thousands of years. There’s evidence that there have been vines grown in the area of Leventhorpe vineyard since the Roman times. Also, if you look at old maps of Leeds, from the 17/1800s there are many vineyards located all across the region. The emergence of mining meant that these were often forsaken to obtain coal. Now it seems we have been brainwashed by marketing to think that we can’t make wine in the UK and that it has to come from France, Italy, Spain or the new world.
Leventhorpe is run by lovely couple Janet and George Bowden. George is your typical passionate grower, who obviously has a deep love for the vines he tends to and the wine that they produce. What is special about Leventhorpe is that everything is produced on site, from vine to bottle. It’s a truly unique, local product. Apparently George and Janet set up Leventhorpe in 1985. George had identified the 5 acre site when he had driven past the field on a snowy day and noticed how its south-facing slope had caught the sun, allowing the snow to melt before that of fields in the surrounding area. The sheltered slope, which leads down to the River Aire, helps protect the vines against spring frosts, and the well-drained hungry soil is free-draining and warms quickly. Making it ideal for a vineyard.
The wines that are available for sale depend on the time of year and availability. If you have a couple of hours spare I do recommend that you pop down for a free tasting. George will have you fascinated by his intriguing and funny stories, and you get to test all the wines he has to offer. The wines are awarded Yorkshire Regional Wine status and all proudly wear the Leeds owl coat of arms!
We opted for the Madeleine Angevine 2009 to go with our pheasant terrine. It’s a light and delicate white wine, with a hint of peach on the nose, leading to a smooth finish with a touch of gooseberry. Interestingly every batch George makes is slightly different and the one we had a slight spicy edge that was intensified by the mace and the juniper in the terrine. This wine is excellent with herby and spicy dishes, good with chicken and pork and is especially good with chicken liver pate and Thai dishes.
For our roasted pepper and fennel dish we opted for a slightly cleaner, crisper wine. This was the Syval 2009 – which was a light, delicate white wine with a sweet apple and passion fruit nose and a hint of citrus that follows through onto the palate to give smooth fruit flavours. I would recommend you try this wine first if you are new to Leventhorpe wines, it’s lovely!
George also produces a late harvest wine, which is slightly sweet and very complex. I also purchased a light red, which needs to be chilled slightly before serving and an exciting Leeds fizz. Apparently George knows the coach of the French rugby team and he managed to trick them all into thinking they were drinking champagne when really they were drinking his fizz! I’m yet to try these but will report back when I do.
For our main course of venison in stout and port we required something more robust and punchy. We looked to the Observer Food Monthly for inspiration as I always annoy myself when I read the wine recommendations and then forget what I wanted when I get to the shops. We chose the Mauregard Bordeaux 2010, which is a juicy merlot with flavours of cassis and (bizarrely) pencil lead! I thought it was smooth, elegant and ever so slightly smoky. Even guests who didn’t like red wine were supping away and agreed that it paired very well with our gamey, rich dish. This wine is available from Marks and Spencers, who have a very good selection for a high street shop.
We ended with some fizz from good old Asda (as we’d blown the budget on the Leeds wine!!) as I think it’s good to showcase wines from many different places. It wasn’t billed on the menu but we wanted to give our guests an extra treat – it is Christmas after all!
For more information about Leventhorpe wine, do send Janet and George an email at email@example.com. They are open most days til about 4pm. Take a big jumper as it’s cold down there!