Waitrose Food and Drink Festival 2023

Love them or hate them food and drink festivals have become part and parcel of the British event calendar. Come winter or summer there’s always some corner of Britian that offers  food and drink goodies to tempt even the most miserly of souls.

As the festive season approaches lovers of drinks will no doubt be curating their Christmas wine wish lists in an effort to find that perfect pairing for the big day. So, it’s no surprise that Food and drinks festivals in the run up to Christmas are packed with people from wine connoisseurs to enthusiastic amateurs on the hunt for delicious tipples.

So, with this in mind it was an absolute pleasure to go along for the second time to this year’s Waitrose Food and Drink Festival, as an educator for Bordeaux wines. Hosted at the very chilly but suitably festive Tobacco Docks, Wapping in London. Held over three days on the last weekend of November the event attracted over 6000 visitors last year alone.

Sold to consumers as a chance to discover classic brands, innovative new distilleries and the showcasing of wine, vodka, whisky, rum and other spirits there really was something for everyone. I was there along with other Bordeaux educators on different festival days to help decipher the often-tricky world of Bordeaux wines to visitors. I was not alone, each day had representation from different wine producers from the region. This helped to give the event a more authentic experience for those wanting to know a more about Bordeaux wines and their production. On the Sunday I was joined by wine producers from Chateau Fonréaud based in the Listrac Medoc and Chateau La Croix Taillefer, Pomerol. They were showcasing their red wines with aplomb!

Together we were a happy band of Bordeaux wine lovers kept busy by the hundreds of festival goers keen to taste a range of around a dozen wines both red and white. Highlights on the white wines included a dry offering of Blanc Sec de Suduiraut 2020 better known for their sweet wines and a sensational Pessac-Leognan 2011 from Chateau Lespault-Martillac. The latter displaying great ripe stone fruit with a nutty finish that belied its years.

Reds included some rich offerings including those producers mentioned above. However,  special mention must go to a very reasonable for the quality, crowd pleasing Marquis de Chasse 2020 coming in at under £10. I feel sure that this wine alone will be on many people’s Christmas drinks list.

The event was busy as was to be expected and there was little time to leave the Bordeaux desk as consumers came in a steady stream. Some asked more complicated questions about vintage variation within the different appellations, others were just shocked that Bordeaux also offered white wines!

It was my second year at the festival and visitors are suitably excited to try the many festive and non festive offerings. In a brief break I got the chance to see and visit other producers including the Gonzalez Byass sherry stand stand and their magnificent fortified wines. I even bought a bottle of the Matusalem (Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez) VORS, at 30 years of age. This goes so well with Christmas pudding, chocolate and all the festive cheeses you can squeeze on a board.

English wine producers were there in abundance and bumping into a former student of WSET Level 3 on Nyetimber resulted in a rather delicious tasting of their 2016 demi-sec (another great Christmas fizz).

For those wishing a mini sojourn from the alcohol on offer, indoor mini golf and wreath making made for popular participation.  There were also live bands and masterclasses including those hosted by Michelin starred chef Angela Hartnett. All of these elements helped to give the festival a different dimension away from alcohol alone.

I hear the Waitrose Food Festival goody bags are worth the entry price alone (£30) but sadly I did not qualify for one. Although big thanks to Tony’s Chocolonley, who at the end of the gifted team Bordeaux with some delicious salted caramel chocolates, yum. Now, where did I put that sherry…



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