Weekend wine-down

Simon Hale enjoys the Birmingham Wine Weekend.

The last time I had a wristband attached, I was about to have minor surgery. But the one marked Birmingham Wine Weekend from the city’s Hotel du Vin offered a far more pleasant prospect.

The £10 tag provided the opportunity to sample Birmingham’s thriving bar and restaurant scene over three days in a tempting, go-as-you-please way. Twenty-three venues were taking part, offering taster glasses of wine for £4, to wine and canapé pairings for £6, on specially selected offerings in a choice of white or red. To survive the experience still on my feet, being highly selective was the order of the afternoon.

After examining the map in the accompanying guidebook, I worked out an easily walkable route through the Jewellery Quarter. From the event hub, the gentle walk up Ludgate Hill led to The Rectory in St Paul’s Square, where a light, crisp Vinho Verde brought a spritzer-like start to the trail.

Still savouring its agreeable apple and grapefruit aroma, the second stop was 1000 Trades on Frederick Street, a craft brewery that also serves natural wine. I was poured a Tempranillo Valdepenas red organic wine, not from a bottle but from a tap behind the bar (I was told the wine arrives by the keg).

The full-bodied deeply fruity little number had a little too much of a harsh edge for my liking, but it was nonetheless a welcome introduction to organic wine.

Heading back into the city centre, the Chung Ying Central on Colmore Row offered a delicious wine and canapé taster – something to eat becoming the priority by then. Sitting at the bar was as comfortable as anywhere to enjoy my vegetarian Kimchi dumplings, served in a bamboo steamer and washed down with a peachy Guntrum Rheinhessen Riesling.

Back to the reds, Spanish restaurant Amantia in Bennetts Hill was serving El Veinat (which means ‘neighbourhood’ – so named in honour of all the locals at Montsant in Catalonia who lend a hand in its production). Made from old vine Grenache and Carignan grapes, it was light, fruity and spicy.

Nearing the end of my alcohol capacity, I couldn’t finish the route without visiting a venue on the way back to Snow Hill railway station. To be more precise, a railway arch on Livery Street. Arch 13 at Connolly’s is split between a bar and an off licence. The friendly staff there served the perfect digestif to my table in the form of a Turkish dessert wine, Tatli Sert Narince.

A bowl of spicy mixed nuts complemented the lovely sweet baked-apple flavour of this fortified beverage. A Turkish delight indeed… and, what’s more, downed only yards from the platform for my train home.

The three-hour bar crawl was fun, to the point where I’ll look forward to sampling what the other participants in the Wine Weekend programme have to offer in the future. Now, how do I remove this wristband?