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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