An all English seafood and wine festival

A busy and beautiful weekend – seafood, wine, friends, sunshine and yes because this is the UK there were some clouds, but guess what it didn’t rain on our parade!

Hastings holds an annual Seafood and Wine festival, now in its seventh year, the focus is on locally produced food, prepared by local restaurants and businesses. And yes English Wine, Cider and Beer. Held next to the fishing beach in the Old Town, it’s a small town affair even though up to 40,000 people visit it over the weekend.

But you want to hear about the food and wine don’t you?

We all know that England is famous for its beer and ciders – the hops are grown in Kent (although that area of farming has declined enormously over the last 50 years) along with many an orchard of apples and pears. They call it the Garden of England. What is less well known is the wine. Up until a few years ago, English wine didn’t have a great reputation, that is slowly changing with award-winning vineyards and producers. And even better they are on my doorstep. For more information on English wines click here

English wine dates back to Roman times, but it isn’t really until the 70s through research and probably sheer bloody mindedness that vineyards weren’t prevalent.  Research into grape varieties and soil management, growing techniques have all enabled English wine to start taking a place in the world. The volumes are still relatively low – tiny in comparison to producers in France, Australia and America, but produce they do!

Carr Taylor, Sedlescombe, Harbourne, Biddenden, Chapel Down, Breaky Bottom, are a few of the local vineyards to produce fantastic whites, roses and sparkling wines, and all were here for the weekend in Hastings.

It would have been rude not to have sampled and supped wouldn’t it. Thorough research was done over two days, and vague memories linger of an outright favourite being the Carr Taylor Sparkling Dry White, at £16 a bottle, exceptionally good value. Clean and crisp, dry and light. Oh so bubbly! Other notable mentions must go to the Sedlescombe dry rose, a bio-dynamic vineyard producing exceptional dry rose – slightly perfumed, light and easy.

There are hits and misses, it’s a relatively young industry in the UK and weather is a huge factor in ripening the grapes on the vines. Sip and sup, sample and you will find some treats!

And a word about the food? Well there was fish in every shape and size, be it soft shell crabs in tempura, Hastings fish in batter or shall we call them Goujon because that sounds smarter doesn’t it? I tried, twice to get my fix of freshly caught and grilled Scallops, and failed twice, I’ll just have to go out for a meal! We snacked on Mackerel and vegetable samosa, plates of Prawn Chat, bowls of soups, Chowders and Bouillabaisse, fish curries, noodles and stir frys, plain and simple fried fish in a roll, trays of locally smoked salmon.

Stalls of flavoured vinegar and oils, chillies and olives were there too, and for the sweet toothed there were cup cakes and chocolates, rounded off with a beer tent and live music and comedy.

We tried our best to sample all the delights, we nearly succeeded (think of the scallops I missed out on and if you want the Scallops from Webbes, go early and be prepared to queue!).

The highlight of course is meeting up with friends, catching up on news, sharing an afternoon; the bonus this weekend was meeting and making new friends, thank you Chica and Big Man for rounding off a perfect weekend on the coast.

Mixing one’s wines may be a mistake, but old and new wisdom mix admirably.

Bertolt Brecht

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53 thoughts on “An all English seafood and wine festival

  1. Sounds like a wonderful weekend! It has made me anxious to try some English wines. I’m old enough to remember when our American wines were a pretty sad bunch, too. California has come through, of course, with flying colors, but producers in areas of Washington and Oregon, New York, and even right here in Michigan are also making great strides. Great post, Claire!

  2. With all the people in town, it sounds like I should have done my show there! This kind of event is my kind of thing. Seafood and wine…..well, you can’t beat it.

  3. What fun what fun Claire! I’d heard that about British wines, but I now consider it “official” and (taking your lead) won’t be “rude” either, first chance I get. :)

  4. Oh you are like me and you like the sparkly stuff.. Oh i miss events like this being out in the boonies! I am glad you had a good day too.. the lack of rain was a blessing that day.. c

  5. I love wine and food festivals. They are also the best gathering spots for likeminded individuals to come together, sample and share their own impressions. I am really interested in the English wines. I can recall when the Australian wines first hit the California market and snooty noses went up in the air. We now enjoy them regularly and have our favorites. I don’t believe I’m ever seen an English wine marketed here, and I wonder when they will also be considered “mature” enough to import. I’m going to look into that. All that fresh fish! That must have been amazing…and I’d like the scallops, too! :-) D

    • You would have loved it Debra, lots of tasty treats, but you might have needed a few more layers than us hardy Brits :)
      The wines are becoming more and more popular, and we now see them in restaurants all the time, a good sight !

  6. Sounds like it was a great weekend in all – and the weather played along too. :D Events focusing on local produce are nice. There’s a hops festival not far from us every summer.

  7. Festivals are the best and your pictures really caught the atmosphere! Our season is just about starting (a few more weeks) and it’s lots of fun!
    Seems an enterprising person could create a hangover herbal cure booth somewhere near the exit next year! ;) I think it might do well!!

      • Ours coincides with when the Northerners come back for Winter starting around Mid October. The town population balloons from then until April when they leave again. The downside is that everything is alot more crowded, but the upside is there’s SO much more to do! Mixed blessing, but I like the activity!

  8. Now this is my kind of event. Sampling wines, munching on tasty treats, and all done in the company of friends. I’m glad you were able to go and that you enjoyed yourself, Claire. :)

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