I’ve been to a fair few wine tastings over the years – from dingy cellar bars to five-star hotels. I’ve even sampled a few on a giant Ferris wheel. So when an invitation to quaff in the South Transept at Chester Cathedral arrived in my inbox, I could hardly resist. The venue seemed somehow appropriate, the blood of Christ and all that.
Whitmore and White is a newly-opened wine merchant (and delicatessen) on Godstall Lane, the fourth location in the company’s portfolio (after Heswall, West Kirby and Frodsham).
To mark the opening and to kick off what W&W hope will be an annual event, 20 wine and spirit distillers and distributors from across the country pitched stalls in the cathedral and welcomed around 200 post-work punters on a drizzly Thursday evening.
Armed with a large glass and a booklet of what’s on offer, guests were encouraged to make notes and take advantage of a discount of 15 per cent on orders placed on the night.
Of particular note were a number of locally-produced drinks. The Wirral Distillery, based in Spital, had six gins on display, from Chester Gin to Bakewell and Cherry and Persian Blue Marshmallow. The team uses old-school techniques using copper stills to batch produce over 50 different gins.
Of course, no craft gin would be complete without an artisanal tonic, and Jeffrey’s Tonic from Chester displayed a range of tonics and tonic syrups inspired by owner Mike Robinson’s time in the Far East working for Heinz. Spices like cassia, nutmeg, clove and allspice work well with whiskies, while lime, galangal and orange is a perfect fit with gin.
According to Mike, chinchona bark, sourced from trees in Equador, is the secret to a good tonic. Many distillers use powdered bark, a cheaper source of quinine, but he sticks to the more complex and smooth chipped bark.
From further afield (well, Herefordshire), Chase Distillery’s range of fruit gins and vodkas distilled from potatoes featured some classic British botanicals and flavours such as elderflower, marmalade, and rhubarb. The distillery was founded by potato farmer William Chase in 2008, his second successful business after launching Tyrrel’s Chips in 2002.
The full range of wines and spirits is available from Whitmore and White, 4 Godstall Lane, Chester.