So, September is here, bringing with it thoughts of crisp mornings, mashed potato, red wine, new pencil cases, picking one's way gingerly through fallen leaves lest something unpleasant be lurking underneath...and, of course, the dreaded "c" word: Christmas. I make no apologies for uttering this word so early in the year; indeed, I'm simply flagging up the fact that tickets are already on sale for one of the highlights of the forthcoming winter - the Three Wine Men Manchester Christmas Tasting. For 2014, the men in question - Olly Smith, Oz Clarke and Tim Atkin - have a new Manchester venue, and will be setting up shop at the Lancashire County Cricket Ground at Old Trafford on Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th November.
This seems like a good time, then, to reminisce about this summer's Three Wine Men Festival, which took place at Manchester Town Hall at the start of July. If you've not been to one of these splendid events before, you present your ticket at the door, are given a tasting glass, and then enter a winey paradise - in this case, The Great Hall, its walls lined with tables behind which smiley people are waiting to pour wine into your glass so you can swill it round and try and look knowledgeable before necking the lot. Exhibitors ranged from the large, national brands (Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, The Co-Operative) to the international (Rias Baixas) to the local and familiar (Corks Out, Barrica Wines), with The Cheshire Cheese Company on hand to help mop up all that alcohol with some dairy goodness (although to be fair, there's only such much a couple of cubes of cheese can do in the face of so much wine).
Many of the wines were available to purchase on the day - I bought a beautiful Grüner Veltliner from the lovely Jane at Barrica Wines (the 2013 Domane Wachau Federspiel Terrassen) and a nice meaty Australian Shiraz from Richmond Wine Agencies (the 2008 Botham Merrill Willis - don't let any unpleasant images you may have seen recently of one of these gentlemen put you off this most excellent wine). I also loved the Arc du Rhône Châteauneuf-du-Pape from Boutinot, but it was £21.49 and I'd run out of money by then.
You can also book for various masterclasses with one or other of the three wine men - we didn't get round to booking these before they sold out but Tim, Oz and Olly were very much in evidence anyway, greeting people as they came in and happily posing for pictures. Indeed, both Oz and Olly, clearly utterly dazzled by my charming mother, had a long chat with us post-photograph despite her obvious wish to stop using up valuable drinking time and get back to the wine tables.
- Tickets for November's Manchester Christmas Tasting are available from the Three Wine Men website and cost £25 per session with an extra £5 per masterclass - I salute those of you who are game for the 11am Saturday session, although I do reserve the right not to sit next to you on the tram afterwards...