I can't help noticing that this is my first blog post in over a month. This in itself is not a problem, of course - I'm well aware the general consensus is that there are plenty of bloggers already, and that the thought of some of us awarding ourselves a big fat lazy Christmas break is in many quarters likely to be welcomed rather than mourned. Anyway, the simple fact is that I try to avoid going outside in winter as much as possible, essentially entering a period of pyjama-clad hibernation that very few events could persuade me to forsake.
Fortunately, in the manner of a great hungry bear or similar, I had taken the precaution of topping up essential provisions for the long, cold nights ahead by attending not one but two wine festivals before Christmas. The first of these was a biggie - the Three Wine Men Manchester Christmas Tasting at Old Trafford Cricket Ground at the end of November. The three men in question are, of course, Olly Smith, Tim Atkin and Oz Clarke - all familiar to us from their TV appearances and always much in evidence at their wine events. This is the third Three Wine Men wine tasting I've been to now and they're great - well organised and with a wide variety of different stalls, from the supermarket behemoths (Morrisons, The Co-Operative, Asda) to local independents (Barrica Wines) to champions of specific countries and regions (Alpine Wines). All in all there were 37 different exhibitors (including the Cheshire Cheese Company, gamely attempting to line our stomachs with cheese samples - a little like swimming against the tide to be honest) - we started, naturally, with the lovely Jane at Barrica Wines, where we met this reprobate whilst admiring Jane's amazing white Rioja. Olly was charmed by my mother at the summer fair and was disappointed I had neglected to bring her on this occasion (although he is admittedly hiding it quite well here - brave face and all that).
As well as the tasting tables, we also tried one of the masterclasses - the cheese and wine matching with Tim Atkin. Although a regular at the Three Wine Men events, I'd never been to one of these masterclasses before, feeling that an extra £5 was a bit much on top of the entry price - but I take it all back. The class was both fun and informative, compèred by the lovely Lisa from Manchester Wine School and offering four different Wine Society wines matched with cheeses from the Cheshire Cheese Company (my favourite match was the Trimbach Gewurztraminer and the Irish Whiskey and Stem Ginger cheese) as well as a selection of excellent Tim jokes (mainly at the expense of Pinot Grigio). These events just keep on getting better and better, and I will certainly be keeping an eye on the website for the announcement of the next Manchester dates, and in the meantime will enjoy some of my purchases in the comfort of my own home.
The second event was at the other end of the scale - a small, intimate wine fair held by independent merchants Origin Wines and Spirits in the upstairs function room at the Northern Quarter's Market Restaurant. This was altogether a family affair, with big boss Dougie aided not only by the charming Conor but also by his mum (who had sampled widely from the tasting table prior to our arrival and was most helpful with her recommendations) and his dad, who had forgotten his glasses and was happily pouring what he called "drinking" rather than "tasting" measures. These are lovely people who stock a good selection of more than decent wines and spirits - we ordered a mixed case that has seen me through Christmas and which allowed my friend to dazzle her boyfriend's parents with her excellent choices of wine during Christmas dinner. They are based in Wigan but deliver around the Manchester area - find out more about them here.
So whilst I understand that the outside world has much to offer, whilst there is wine in my wine rack and the complete series of True Detective on Sky Box Set, I really can't see the rush to get back out there any time soon.