Zam Baring admits he was lucky. The son of the late Lord Ashburton of The Grange and his siblings already owned the 30 acres of downland just outside Winchester that would become Burge’s Field Vineyard in 2011. The flinty south-facing slopes have proved ideal for achieving the perfect balance of acidity and sugar in the Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier grapes they wanted to grow.
But turning that land into a profitable business in a hugely competitive industry has required hands-on hard graft, including many sleepless nights. “Faced with frost at a critical point in the growing season, you realise what commitment to your crop is all about,” he says with a smile.
There are scary chefs and there are smiley chefs, and Andrew Mackenzie at Lainston House is definitely a smiley chef.
He’s so smiley, in fact, that when the Exclusive Hotels and Venues Group, of which the five-star hotel near Sparsholt is a part, decided to launch a Chefs Academy to nurture rising talent, it was Andrew they asked to lead it.
And so the executive chef who transformed Lainston House’s restaurant into a cracking place for really good locally-sourced food suddenly found himself back in the classroom.
In 2002 Theo Mezger immersed himself in an unusual retirement project: creating the finest ice cream using local ingredients, which he lovingly named after his wife.
What started as a hobby in his home just outside Winchester impressed family and friends so much that he began to supply local pubs, starting with The Chestnut Horse.
Word spread and Jude’s won the first of many Great Taste Awards for its vanilla ice cream.
When Paul Bowler of Winchester Distillery delved into his parents’ drinks cabinet at the tender age of 12, the first thing he came across was a rather old bottle of Gordon’s Gin.
“It was surprisingly palatable,” he says with a smile. “Even as a student, when cider and black was about as sophisticated as it got, I always liked a gin and orange.”
An appreciation of quality when it came to drinking stayed with Paul, who after 20 years working in London in IT decided to rethink his career and indulge his passion for gin.
Wine Festival Winchester: big flavour with unsubtle notes of socialising and the heady whiff of fun.
I’m at the Winchester home of BBC Saturday Kitchen wine experts Susie Barrie and Peter Richards, who usher me into their super stylish kitchen.
Both hold the prestigious Master of Wine title, making them part of a fairly rare species of experts from across the world. They are also half of the four-strong team behind Winchester’s Wine Festival, which is now in its third year and takes place at Guildhall.
“Indulge in a little bit of what you fancy as often as you can.” That’s what Gary Whiter, co-founder of Winchester’s Cabinet Rooms, believes.
Gary and Marcus Roe, the two bearded gentlemen, as they’ve become known, are kicking off the Summer with Ginchester Fête, a celebration of all things gin, which comes to the Great Hall on World Gin Day, 10 June. Tickets cost £10 and include a drink on arrival.