A Vineyard Diary Part 16

Early March, 2021

Vineyards and Coronavirus

The story so far: with the prospect of freedom at last now beckoning, we look to provide some pleasurable diversion in the meantime…

Cast your mind back to last March.

The Cheltenham Festival.

A quarter of a million people, in tweeds, furs and trilbies, celebrated the pinnacle of the National Hunt season.

230,000 pints of Guinness were drunk, 20,000 bottles of champagne poured, five tonnes of smoked salmon consumed. The crowds milled happily from tent to paddock to course, meeting friends, talking racing, ‘fleecing’ the bookies and thrilling to the finest national hunt racing festival in the world.

Cheltenham Gold Cup

A week later, a pale and drawn prime minister declared the first national lockdown in our country’s thousand year history.

The Festival was an ante-diluvian moment.

Nothing was ever the same after it.

Yet it happened, and it will happen again this year.

Only once in its 161 year history has the festival been cancelled, when the foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001 succeeded where world wars and global pandemics have failed.

This year the racing will again take place as usual, although sadly we shall have to watch from home.

Yet there is cause for celebration.

Spring already beckons with the prospect of renewal, and the virus that has played such havoc with our lives, and the racing, is in decline.

Within a matter of weeks now we shall once again be mixing with friends, eating and drinking together, and enjoying fully one of the greatest national sporting calendars in the world. Meanwhile, to raise morale still further, and to tease your waist-lines, we have teamed up with our friends and partners at Boisdale and Fitzdares to produce an incredible Cheltenham Gold Cup hamper, for delivery direct to your homes on the day.

The Gold Cup hamper, designed for two and to last the whole day, is a veritable cornucopia of British delicacies.

Start the day, reclined comfortably in your bubble, with a Bloody Mary made from English Puffing Billy Stream Vodka and quite the best spiced tomato mix on the market, from the Pickle House.

Study the form while you do so, taking advantage of the free £25 betting voucher provided by our friends at Fitzdares.

As lunch beckons, open a bottle of Coates & Seely Brut Reserve NV, provided by yours truly, before indulging in a maritime saturnalia of Scottish langoustine (with home-made mayo), Dunkeld smoked salmon (with herby crème fraiche), Orkney pickled herrings (with dill and lemon) and potted smoked mackerel (with horseradish and chives). Do not leave your bubble. Protect the NHS. 

English Sparkling Hamper

Choose, then, between a main course of oxtail and parmesan pie (to be oven-heated for 18 mins – the only cooking required in the whole hamper) and the great Boisdale speciality of fillet of beef, Herefordshire asparagus, Cornish new potatoes and English wild garlic salsa verde, followed, in either case, by crème brulée à l’Anglaise with a praline shard and blueberry compôte, and topped off with a selection of Scottish cheeses.

Cheltenham Gold Cup Hamper from Boisdales

Finally, at the end of an afternoon of thrilling racing, as you count your winnings and contemplate the delicious cold supper ahead of you, indulge in some comforting gin and tonics made from London Distillery gin and Double Dutch mixes.

Whether you are in despair at lockdown, in early training for the re-opening of the British social season, or simply in need of an indulgence, these hampers will not disappoint. They are utterly delicious and amazingly good value. Go to Boisdale to place your orders and know that you will also be helping the Great British food and drinks industry back onto its feet…