I like to play with my food and drink – and there are some people out there whose job it is to do just that.


The grapes take on the apples in a head to head

Young’s pubs are always thinking of ways to get creative and we can’t wait for this season’s events just around the corner. Just take their British tapas and Estrella night at The Halfway House last September, where they turned the traditional Spanish cuisine on its head with scotch eggs, pan roast duck breast and British charcuterie boards. We even got to pour our very own Estrella pint.

But last year Young’s Wine Versus Cider event at the Duke of Wellington in Notting Hill took playing with your food to a whole new level. Think Ready Steady Cook with grapes in place of peppers and apples for tomatoes – we were handed cards to vote with, as Aspall Cyder and Cockburn & Campbell Wine Merchants went head to head.

Pumpkin soup

Pumpkin soup

If you had to choose wine or cider to go with your meal, which would it be? As I sat down for our five-course extravaganza I was convinced that wine would be my sure-fire winner. Who doesn’t, more often than not, order a bottle to go with dinner?

But then there’s Aspall. This is by far my favourite cider. I squeal with delight whenever I find it’s on tap upon entering a pub. Winter or summer, spring or autumn, I’m not fussy. With this contender in the mix, could it beat the fail-safe wine?

Smoked salmon pâté

Smoked salmon pâté

And it began. With each course a representative from both Aspall and wine merchants Cockburn & Campbell took turns to persuade the room that their carefully chosen cider/wine was the best choice for the course. We were poured a glass of each, and given the time we took to eat to decide.

The pumpkin and sweet potato soup with parmesan croutons paired with the Aspall Harry Sparrow perfectly, as did the blush cider with the Scottish smoked salmon pâté and sourdough toast. Blush cider is a new one for me, seen as I usually err on the side of dry ciders.

Pork loin with cider sauce

Pork loin with cider sauce

And then the pork loin with apple and cider sauce came along, I mean come on now… that’s not fair! Three to cider, love to wine. It was not looking good for the vino…

Feeling a little full already, and two courses to go, the slow cooked Welsh lamb casserole paired with Rioja Reserva 2008 beat the Aspall Imperial Vintage hands down. Perhaps this lapse towards the grape was due to too many bubbles in my belly?

Welsh lamb casserole

Welsh lamb casserole

Now the hardest one to decide upon was the dessert wine versus cider. The dish: crème brûlée. The wine: a Semillon. The cider: Aspall Isabel’s Berry. Can you guess? Never really a fan of a Semillon, Aspall came out on top again.

Crème brûlée

Crème brûlée

The verdict: in contrast to my prediction the apples beat the grapes. Perhaps it is because I am totally and utterly devoted to my favourite wines: Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Malbec, and anything else pales into the shadows in comparison.

Whereas I’m open to anything that Suffolk-based Aspall will throw at me.


Five ciders and five wines down… I rolled on home.

Look out for the Young’s Ginspiration events popping up in April… we’ll keep you posted.

The Duke of Wellington | 179 Portobello Road, Notting Hill, London W11 2ED

Read all about the Estrella and British Tapas Night…

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