Ladies night out at The Truro Festival

Truro Festival began with a jam packed Saturday full of events and activities to pick and choose from.  Instead of being involved with this particular Festival event, this time, I organised two of my friends to join me in attending this woman only occasion – ‘Salon du Chocolat’ performed by Rebecca Mordan and Sharon Andrew.  The duo are talented in their ability to convey literature that captivates and entertains.  I had indicated to my friends that Salon du Chocolat was performed by Scary Little Girls Theatre company.

Salon Du chocolat

When chocolate was first brought to England in the 1600s, it was considered a taboo substance, enjoyed only by the scandalous and elite in private salons.  Some of our finest literature was also once considered too provocative for public consumption and was heard in similar salon environments by only the boldest of ears!

Scary Little Girls invited a female-only audience to join them for a stimulating and intimate evening of storytelling celebrating the relationship between salons, chocolate and forbidden literature!  We heard of tales which explored female desires from authors such as Edna St Vincent Millay, Stella Duffy, John Keats and Daphne du Maurier – and of course enjoyed chocolate treats too!

I met the delightful performers at last year’s Truro Festival in our cosy yurt on Lemon Quay during howling gales.  It was a fabulous evening full of laughter and decadent literature.

As this was our rare ‘girls night out’ in Truro we organised, to try the new bar and wine merchant ‘The Art of Wine’  situated in Nalders Court before heading to the show.  Home to some fabulous independent fashion boutiques such as Melange, Plum and Benetton, as well as The Original Art ShopNalders Court leads off Pydar Street, just at the entrance to Laura Ashley.

The Art of Wine has a unique and chic interior where we could sample wines from a smart gadget dispenser called WineEmotion.  The dispenser keeps the wine at a perfect temperature and we were able to sample the wine at a reasonable price per glass, small, medium or large.  We managed to sample two, with guidance from the knowledgeable Roland.  I preferred the fruity South African Sauvignon Blanc, Ataraxia by Kevin Grant. I ended up buying a bottle for a special occasion.

We then, raced off for the performance at 7pm on Lemon Quay.  The marquee was decorated in the theme of Samuel Foote.  (Truro’s long lost Truronian from the 18th century, he was the first stand-up comedian and known as the funniest man in London.)  The lights were dimmed and the lectern was poised for the drama to unfold.  We had exerts from ‘A Letter to my Love’ by Nicholas Stuart Gray, to ‘In Praise of Older Women’ by Frank Kaiser.  During the interval we were served rich hot chocolate from Oscars Coffee Shop and Deli (from Samuel Foote’s Coffee house), as well as delicious homemade brownies with flickers of ginger.

Salon Du Chocolac

The evening continued with highlights from ‘Mistress of the Art of Death’ by Ariana Franklin and ended on a high with ‘The Ballad of Freda and Barry’ by Victoria Wood.  In a flash of the eye, the evening was over and you could tell that the audience thoroughly enjoyed it – wonderful to hear good hearty laughter from all the women.

Advertisements

Cognac and Armagnac with Old Chapel Cellars

On Friday the 5th of February on a cold winter’s night I hastily rushed to Old Chapel Cellars in St. Clement Street, Truro for an evening of tasting Cognac and Armagnac. I was greeted by a warm welcome and a glass of champagne. Neil Monyard is one of the country’s leading experts when it comes to Cognac and Armagnac and a great raconteur! He has a wealth of knowledge and a passion for the drinks distinctive tastes and their history. Cognac Old Chapel Cellars Tastings (4)

Iain and Charlotte made us all feel most welcome and cooked a delicious rich stew. It was a relaxed evening on the prized Old Chapel Cellar couch and all six bottles were laid out ready, with glasses for us to begin our tasting. I am a novice when it comes to alcohol and I found the talk most interesting. I have always heard of cooking with Cognac or Armagnac in puddings, biscuits, stews and cocktails. I feel that I walked away with great knowledge about the drinks and that I had learned something that evening.

Cognac Old Chapel Cellars Tastings (3)

First of all, Armagnac, this is a type of brandy produced in the Armagnac area of France. Anything outside of this region is known as a French grape brandy. Armagnac is distilled using column stills (large container that holds the liquid) and made from a variety of grapes, which is aged in oak barrels. Armagnac is made on a far smaller scale than Cognac, which is dominated by big name global brands. The area where the grapes are grown to produce Armagnac is split into three, Bas-Armagnac, Armagnac-Tenareze and Haut-Armagnac. (Armagnac is has two distillations, however only one movement through the still. ) Once distilled it is then aged in the oak barrels (which gives flavour) and impacts on the colour of the beverage – as does where the barrels are stored, with regards to temperature and climate.

The Cognac is produced around the town of Cognac, from where its name derives.  Cognac has to be made from certain grapes, such as Ugni blanc (known as a high yielding grape and not prone to rotting easily) and is grown in a chalky soil. It is distilled twice in copper pot stills and also aged in oak barrels.

Map Cognac

The difference in the taste of the two drinks is mainly down to their geographic areas in France, with their soils which defines Cognac (chalk) and Armagnac (clay, sand, closer to the ocean). We tasted the Cognac and Armagnac against each other. The alcohol in both is 40%. The grades on the bottles are the same for both Cognac and Armagnac. We tasted the (Prunier) Cognac, which has been the leader in the Chinese market for 30 years. Whilst we sampled the Armagnac (Domaine De Papolle).

The first sipping we tasted was the three star VS (very special), where it has been stored in a cask for a minimum of two years. I preferred the Cognac. The Cognac seemed to show a bit more development of the grape.

With the second pair of bottles, we tried the VSOP (very superior old pale), which means it has been stored for at least four years. I noticed the incredible honey brown colour. I preferred the Armagnac this time, which seemed to show more complexity and little less ‘polish’.

Then, finally onto the more expensive bottles, we compared the XO (extra old), which is stored for at least eight years. With the Cognac, we drank from the Cognac Prunier family. This time, I preferred the taste of the Chateau de Lacaze Bas Armagnac, which was smoother and noticeably different to the first bottles that we tasted.

Neil advised that if you do have to mix your drink, then only use Ginger Ale (and not American Dry)! Overall, Neil surmised that Cognac and Armagnac have their ups and downs in popularity in the global market and he believes it will become increasingly more popular, just as Gin, Vodka and Whisky. He made the evening, fun and lively with Charlotte and Iain hosting us with pleasure.

Old Chapel Cellars holds regular wine tastings, as well as the first Friday of the month, where a guest speaker comes in and they cover a certain geographic area of wine, food is included and this is a ticketed event.

The next event is based on Southern Italy, Scilly and the Sardinia area, which is an up and coming area in the wine world. This area that use to produce delectable wine for the locals, has now been ‘discovered’. It costs £15pp and starts at 6.30pm on Friday the 4th of March at Old Chapel Cellars. Email wine@oldchapelcellars.co.uk or call 01872 270 545 to book your place.