This may seem a bit out of my remit, as vineyards provide us with neither coffee nor cycles. However, I thought this trip would be of interest to readers and might, I hope, also shape the way I see people should see coffee. Wine is traditionally held to be the quintessential tasting beverage. It holds a symphony of flavours, at many levels of the palette. I always agreed with this and don’t see wine tasting to be a stilted or necessarily pretentious activity. What I also believe is that wine-tasting holds a great model for coffee (and beer/ale too), and that a great coffee can be enjoyed like a great wine, and that there is a way of teaching ones taste buds to recognise more flavours within an espresso cup.
Biddenden is a well known name, especially in Kent. The vineyard is famous, particularly for its high quality, authentic cider. Biddenden’s cider is served at a high percentage, and without bubbles–the old fashioned way. Despite this orchard branch (!), the premises are primarily dedicated to vines and producing respected English wines. Superbly, they offer free tours of the vineyard and bottling plant, along with a free tasting following. These tours are at set times, so make sure you view the website for details.
The tour was very interesting, and I think it’s great that they are doing this to increase the awareness of English wine. This has traditionally been a wine surrounded in farce and comedy due to the climate and soil types in Britain that are unfavourable conditions compared to other countries. However, there are some very drinkable wines produced here that are trying to break into the mainstream with new techniques of growing grapes. It is to this end that Biddenden runs some very important tours around their vines, showing the care and attention they show the grape. Like coffee, it also requires a passion and expertise to make it truly great. The pictures show the tour in more detail, but it changes depending on the time of year (this tour was ‘pre-harvest’ and showed the vines being prepared).
The first part of the tour centres around the vineyard, and the second on the bottling process. This second part is where cider lovers will be captivated, by the methods of pulping as well as the great vats that are used to store the cider until it is ready to drink. After this, there are a few bottles on tasting. But don’t think you’ll be getting tipsy on it! The tastings are just a drop, but give you a good idea of the flavour of the ciders and wines on offer. On the wine side, I tried the Ortega wine: this is their bestseller, but I found it a bit too bitter for my taste. I also tried a red, which I found much more palatable. Rich and cinnamony, it almost tasted like a mulled wine. Being a lover of cider too, I couldn’t help but buy a small bottle of their classic vintage. Biddenden’s cider.
The cider is really smooth, and very strong for something that goes down so easily. With no bubbles, it may surprise those who have not tried it before, but I hope you’ll agree it holds a charm and flavour that you miss with an overchilled, overcarbonated cider.