The Bacchus Gricer: Going Over The Alps

England is producing excellent award winning wines year on year and they are well worth hunting out!

Our journey continued winding through the Dorset countryside towards Hampshire, where we would then make a detour and head for London.

Having now moved out of our comfy cottage environment that Eastcott Vineyard had provided, we were now cheap hotel hopping and determined to stick to the very low budget that we had set ourselves. This included restrictions on our food, meaning that eating out was a definite luxury and that we had to find and provide ourselves with a reasonable diet with only pennies to spare: an endurance test indeed to see how well we could cope on little.

Enter “The Travelodge Surprise” – a surprise as we never knew how the end result would turn out. Now don’t try this at home, or should we say in a Travelodge near you, unless you have a strong will not to cave in to dining out or take-away – we nearly did but in the end, we held on strong. We are glad to be back home to some welcome cooking we can tell you!

To make the “Surprise” you will need:

  • 1 kettle (essential)
  • 1 plastic bowl
  • 2 plates (optional – if missing eat straight from the bowl)
  • 1 spoon
  • 2 forks (again optional – if missing take turns to use spoon)
  • Packet of noodles
  • Packet of dried soya mince (TVP)
  • Packet of sauce flavouring or stock cube


  • Boil kettle
  • Throw all ingredients into the bowl
  • Pour boiling water over contents and leave to soak (cover bowl with plate or similar)
  • Stir occasionally over 10-15 minutes
  • Enjoy!

This became our main supply of “nourishment” for the next few days… and we survived!

Right, back to the adventure…

We still had plenty to do before London and this included sampling another English award winning wine, none other than an International Wine Challenge Trophy Award.

In this instance, the trophy was for the best English Sparkling Wine of 2013 and we were about to try it out for ourselves. As well as the IWC Trophy, this wine had also won:  Silver Outstanding Medal in International Wine & Spirits Competition 2013 and Silver Medal in Decanter World Wine Awards 2013.

… and the Trophy went to none other than The Furleigh Estate.

The Furleigh Estate

Furleigh Estate, tucked away in the Devonshire countryside at Salway Ash, pride themselves on dedication to their craft, working in collaboration with students from Plumpton College, who are studying one of the wine degree courses. They make both still and sparkling wines, some of which, are limited release.

We arrived a little later than planned after almost getting lost driving around the narrow winding lanes (something we were by now getting used to). The tasting room was busy with a coach load of visitors, who had been on a tour of the vineyards and winery and were now sampling Furleigh’s range of wines on offer.

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However, this did not prevent co-owner Rebecca Hansford (Winemaker Ian Edwards being the other half) coming over to welcome us and spend a little time chatting about their estate and wines.

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A bottle of the trophy winner itself was duly purchased.

Classic Cuvee 2009 – 41% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir, 24% Pinot Meunier: Persistent mousse, fruity with brioche aromas, elegantly balanced with long finish. 

Originally, we planned to call upon several vineyards in the area but these either did not open on the day available to us or had not got back in touch, and one even seemed closed altogether when we chanced it and drove up to the front door. Therefore, we decided to make the most of the splendid sights and sounds that we knew were available (although non-wine related).

Corfe Castle

We decided to stop off along the way at Corfe Castle, a National Trust property that we have visited before, still worth a second or even more visits. It’s rich history, stretching as far back as the 10th Century, and its majestic stance against the backdrop of the surrounding village and countryside leave a lasting impression. The Swanage Railway runs alongside and lends an added attraction both on and off the train.

Here, we took in lunch. Ah ha! We hear you cry! What’s happened to your endurance test, your “Travelodge Surprise”??? Well, we can tell you dear friends, it was just that, that we had for our lunch! By now cold or more precisely luke warm from being in a hot car boot, we stuck to our guns and “enjoyed” whilst sat on a hill overlooking the castle (a good distraction technique).

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The Swanage Railway

This is a great railway well worth a visit. The main station is right in the centre of town and very close to the sea front. It was proposed for closure in 1968 but strong local opposition kept it open until 1972. However, fortunes were upturned when in 1979 part of the line was reopened as a heritage railway. Today the line has been reconnected with the main line and is a major tourist attraction.

We visited Swanage a couple of years earlier for one of the many gala days that are staged at the railway, which on that particular occasion was also playing host to a local beer festival.

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Still on the hunt to find a local wine merchant who sold English wine, we managed to locate one close to the station but alas there was no English wine! Although they did have an impressive selection of local ciders and ales.

However, we weren’t to finish the day without our goal being accomplished and this occurred when we tripped over the border into Hampshire to take a look around the Mid-Hants Railway when we literally stumbled upon The Naked Grape wine merchants in Alresford.


This is a locally run business with another premises at Four Marks (also a stopping point on the Mid-Hants Railway) and was neatly set out with product information. The friendly member of staff was very helpful especially with being able to point out the section containing English wines as well as describing each one of them to us.

We opted for the most local:

Court Lane Vineyard, Ropley Dry Reserve 2011 – Grapes non-specified but the UK Vines website highlights that it grows: Huxelrebe, Muller Thurgau, Reichensteiner and Seyval Blanc, so it may just well be a blend of all four though we suspect that it might be more in line with the last two grape varieties on the list. Good fruit aromas that carried onto the palate with a richness to the mouthfeel and a good finish. Might also have undergone some malolactic fermentation but still maintained a fresh acidic backbone. A very pleasant surprise to our day. 


Mid-Hants Railway

It was almost time to set off on our journey to London but not before taking a walk around the locomotive shed and yard of the Mid-Hants Railway at none other than Ropley!

The railway had closed to the public for the day but a kind Shed Master permitted us to take a walk around the yard, for which we gave a small donation for the upkeep of the railway.

This line was once the main line for the London and South Western Railway Company (later part of The Southern Railway) from London to Southampton and was closed as a through route by British Rail in 1973. It has earned the name “The Watercress Line” after one of its main functions used to be the carriage of local watercress to retailers in London. It was and still is famous for its gradients and as such local engine crews describe the journey as “Going over the Alps“.

The line maintains its Southern Railway heritage and is well worth a visit, in fact they are currently building seven holiday cottages next to the railway at Ropley.

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It was now time to head for London and get ready for the International Wine Challenge Awards Dinner and Summer Ball, which was to take place the following evening.


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