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English (Welsh) Wine Week (20th to 28th June)

My love for wine

My love for wine started when I first went to Napa Valley in California as a young 18-year-old. I was mesmerised about the vines, the procedure and of course the end produce. I have always had a fascination with food and taste and different combinations and as a very young child asked mum to by exotic fruits and made weird and wonderful combinations so this was easily transferred to understanding the different grape characteristics and the blending process was something I found really intriguing.

After my year in San Francisco I moved to London and found myself starting a new job at a pub on King’s Road. This was the beginning of a long career within hospitality.

Macmillans wine bar

At 19 I become a young Manager at Macmillan’s Wine Bar on Fulham Road and was able to assist the owner in writing tasting notes. The tasting notes were of the easy kind as we had three white, one rosé and three reds! This was the beginning of wine drinking in England and one of the first chic wine bars to start a trend that has grown and now we even see wine bars in our villages. Our customers were affluent and considered wine connoisseurs but all they would ask for was sweet or dry white, so we still had a long way to travel to the extend of the wine lists today.

I had an amazing opportunity in my mid 20’s to open a wine bar in Earlsfield, South London and we also had a 90 seat restaurant. I remember going to visit the site and there was an old-fashioned Café Rouge opposite and a couple of old pubs and to say the least I thought I ended up at world’s end…. I was used to the hustle and bustle of central London and the trendy bars, clubs and restaurants in Chelsea and I wondered what on earth I was doing but hey ho onwards and upwards…

From print shop to restaurant

We turned the old printing shop into this contemporary restaurant with top of the range wines and a large wine bar with an extensive wine list and many served by the glass and this was the start of an amazing journey. To say that Willie Gunn became a family is the only way to describe it. We were a little community in South London that was so much more than just a great place to eat and share a lovely glass of wine with a friend. It was also a start of experimenting with wine and building wine clubs and moving away from sweet or dry and having tasting notes like elderberry, grass, zesty, chocolate and so on.

We were a young team and I must say that I had the best teacher I could ever had have – Roger Austin from Ellis of Richmond. Roger was in his late 40’s when we met and he was so patient dealing with a young Manager with little experience but a love for learning. He very bravely took the young team to various wine tastings and he was the one that taught me that nothing is wrong within the ‘wine language’. He always asked us just to tell him what we could smell, taste and feel and we had some cracking times! Roger had the patience of an angel and we remain friends – although nowadays I hope he is spending his time on the golf course.

The first introduction I had to English wines was not really English wines it was an English lady – Olivia Donnan. She had moved to France to become an owner of the magnificent Chateau Masburel. I swore that I would be like her one day – here I am in my camper van picking grapes in Wales – but needless to say – happy!

White Castle Vineyards Wales

The inspiration to this blog was really my excitement of interviewing Nicola and Robb Merchant – owners of White Castle Vineyard in South Wales. I know it is English wine week but I also wanted to spread it across the Severn Bridge and introduce some of the fantastic wine establishments I have come across since moving here and it has been really interesting to see how they have expanded to become recognised on the International market.

I first met Nicola and Robb 2010 once running a hotel a few miles away from their beautiful land. They had the previous year planted 4000 vines in May 2009 and I was fascinated. I had fulfilled one of my ticks on my bucket list and did a harvest for Ancre Hill vineyard that year and was so excited to hear about this hard-working lovely couple and another vineyard to visit.

At this time of my life one of my jobs was to match food with wine on our award-winning tasting menus. It is something I have always loved and I think it is one of those things you just know. When I have run courses and tastings I always say it is like a painting and once you can imagine the food and the different taste of the ingredients of the food you can blend them with the grapes and make your canvas. I was producing wine flights to match the daily changing wine list and we were lucky to have a Le Verre du Vin, preservation system so able to offer wines from across the world as tastings. I was massively proud to introduce the award-winning English and Welsh Wines.

As we are in lock down and going through this horrific pandemic these venues will of course also find themselves thinking outside the box and White Castle Vineyard held a very successful virtual tasting at home last month and I certainly would recommend you try this.

I guess we are all planning our trips away when we can go and visit places again and I would definitely make England’s and Wales Vineyards a place to visit. If you would like to meet some friendly people from all different paths of life why not volunteer and join us for a harvest.

Celebrate Wine Week

Many of UK’s vineyards offer the public to attend tastings, tours and voluntarily join them for a harvest. There are over 700 individual vineyards in the British Isles with about 200 open to the public. As we celebrate English Wine Week why not get together virtually with friends – buy a bottle and compare tasting notes – remember anything is possible within the wine language and there is no right or wrong.

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Health and safety at work

See No Bounds

See No Bounds

World day for health and safety at work

World health and safety at work day 2020 is on Tuesday 28th of April and well we are currently safe at home with a bit of free time available why don’t we get up to date on our Health and Safety training. 

Did we mention that if you use this voucher code SNB2020 you get a 15% discount?  

What is health and safety

Health and safety is basically an act set out in 1974 aimed to protect those at work.  It a primary piece of legislation covering occupational health and safety in Great Britain.  

Also referred to as: HSWA, the HSW Act, the 1974 Act or HASAWA.

It sets out the general duties which:

  • employers have towards employees and members of the public
  • employees have to themselves and to each other
  • certain self-employed have towards themselves and others

You can read the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 in full on legislation.gov.uk.

You can find out about health and safety law in our guide Health and safety at work: criminal and civil law.

Training available from MTS Ltd

We are very proud of the relationship we have developed with MTS Ltd over the past 10 years and with this we can offer a 15% discount with voucher code SNB2020. 

To make the most of this and take advantage of a fantastic opportunity to be trained by an accredited company please follow the following link. 

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MS Awareness week

See No Bounds

See No Bounds

MS Awareness Week

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition that can affect the brain and spinal cord, causing a wide range of potential symptoms, including problems with vision, arm or leg movement, sensation or balance.

That’s the basics of the condition. Seems simple enough to understand! However, it is never as easy as a single statement taken from the NHS website. The intersting part of this condition is it’s facts.

  • Most commonly diagnosed in people in their 20’s the 30’s.
  • It about 2 or 3 times more common in women than in men.
  • MS is one of the most common disabilities in young adults.

What are the Symptoms

The symptoms vary widely, each person will have some and not others. However the main symptoms are as follows:

  • fatigue
  • difficulty walking
  • vision problems, such as blurred vision
  • problems controlling the bladder
  • numbness or tingling in different parts of the body
  • muscle stiffness and spasms
  • problems with balance and co-ordination
  • problems with thinking, learning and planning

The really interesting part of this condition is that some of the symptoms are known to come and go in phases over time.  However this condition is permanent and will reduce life expectancy. 

Seeing a GP

If you are concerned that you have experienced some of these symptoms then please seek medical advice from a GP. Many of the symptoms are similar to other conditions. See our other blog Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.

CRPS is just an example of a condition that shares some common symptoms. Others could be very simple such as a lack of Iron will cause Fatigue for example so please don’t self diagnose. Seek advice!

Types of Multiple Sclerosis

There are two ways that MS can start:

  • Relapsing remitting MS

More than 80% of those diagnosed with MS will start with this type of MS. Many will then have episodes of new or worsening symptoms, this is known as relapses. The symptoms will get worse over a matter of days or weeks. However, they often then improve but very slowly. Sometimes over several months or even years.

Relapses often come with no warning but can be related to a 3rd source illness or even high levels of stress. There are periods between attacks like these and they are know as remission periods. Fortunately these remission periods can sometimes last years at a time. 

Around half of people with relapsing remitting MS will develop secondary progressive MS within 15 to 20 years, and the risk of this happening increases the longer you have the condition.

  • Primary progressive MS

Just over 1 in 10 people with MS start with a gradual worsening of the symptoms. However with Primary progressive MS there is no periods of remission. There are times when the condition seems to become stable, but that is normally the best one can hope for.

So what causes Multiple Sclerosis?

MS is an autoimmune condition. This is when something goes wrong with the immune system and it mistakenly attacks a healthy part of the body – in this case, the brain or spinal cord of the nervous system.

Taken this paragraph off the NHS website but I think the statement is very clear.  However, what causes the immune system to attack in this way is very much unclear and research is still underway to get to the bottom of this issue.

Charities and support groups for Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

MS Trust

UK based charity, offering useful advice, publications, news items about ongoing research, blogs and chatroom's.

MS Society

UK based charity, offering useful advice, publications, news items about ongoing research, blogs and chatroom's.

Shift MS

Website and online community aimed at younger people effected by MS

If you:

  • need help with day-to-day living because of illness or disability
  • care for someone regularly because they’re ill, elderly or disabled, including family members

The NHS guide to care and support explains your options and where you can get support.

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