By Rick Riozza
For so many years, this tennis playing enthusiast and his family have watched the Wimbledon Championships while simply lounging around the house enjoying our own Breakfast at Wimbledon (usually featuring spicy chorizo mixed with fried potatoes and runny eggs on top, along with shots of Tequila & lime or Bloody Marys), and, of course, for dessert, the classic Wimbledon fare of Strawberries & Cream.
The tournament at the All-England Lawn Tennis Club tweaked its schedule this year to allow players more rest and practice time between the Roland Garros French Championships and Wimbledon’s great grass court event.
As your wine, food, and tennis correspondent, I have to admit that I don’t know my way around town here (Wimbledon being a district of London, about seven miles out from the centre) as compared with our well-worn CV Weekly three-column jaunt through Champagne and the Loire in France. So sorry—no wine tour here. Actually, the Champagne region in France has traditionally been the most northern wine growing region in the world—so one wouldn’t expect a wine tour around England (which of course sits north of La France).
But in the Middle Ages, the monks in England were doing fine making wine—they’re famous for that anywhere! However, when King Henry II married Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1152, the Bordeaux region became part of the Throne; thus, why make wine in the rain and cold when all of England could enjoy the best Bordeaux—so the vineyards withered away.
A thousand years later, England has indeed joined the international wine world and is producing it with over 3,000 vineyard acres and growing. Still, I do not know my way around the wineries here—so sorry again, no wine tour around this tennis tournament. Let’s simply spend our time eating and drinking around the green green grass courts of old.
This year, Wimbledon will run from June 29th to July 12th. The good news for the athletes is that this tournament pays the highest in winnings; the bad news for us spectators is that the prices for the grub and drinks are criminally out-of-sight!
So the advice is to avoid spending your month’s salary in a day by bringing provisions for your day out. Everyone is allowed to bring a knapsack into Wimbledon, and you can pack as much food in it as you like, plus a bit of booze. Each person is allowed two cans of beer or one bottle of wine. What do you think we’re bringing?
Note that pointy corkscrews may be prohibited, so you might be looking to find screw-top wines, but as we’ll reason below, don’t worry—no hardware needed. With the traditional Strawberries & Cream, the best wine to pair with this dish is a very chilled sweet sparkling wine or sweet rosé Champagne—so we’ll easily be popping corks!
Ten years ago, I remember Wimbledon caterers served over 23 tons of strawberries and 1,820 gallons of cream. Popular legend has it that King George V introduced strawberries and cream to courtside crowds. But the tradition actually dates from around the time of the first Wimbledon tournament in 1877; back then, strawberries—only available that time of year—and the commencement of tennis championships both signaled the arrival of summer.
By the way, the double cream applied to the “official Wimbledon Elsanta Strawberry” contains at least 48 percent butterfat. Therefore to enjoy this dish at home, forget the can of phony whipped cream or tub of Cool-Whip. Buy the best vanilla ice cream you can find, let it melt in the fridge, then pour it freely on your fruit. Yeah—baby!
The general rule with sweet dessert wine pairings, is to match it with a wine that is as sweet or even sweeter than your sugary concoction. Otherwise the wine will taste a bit sour next the sweet course. At Wimbledon, the Veuve Clicquot Demi Sec Champagne, $50, will do with its peach nectar, tangerine, honey and toast aromas followed by plump orchard fruit. And it’s not overly sweet.
Here are three recommendations you can find locally, if you simply prefer to lay in bed and watch the tournament on the telly:
Schramsberg 2010 Cremant Demi-Sec, $35: Although moderately sweet, it is complex in aromas with fresh mango, guava, candied orange and caramelized apple—talk about loading up on the fragrance department!
There’s also a fresh-bread aroma giving the Wimbledon dessert a bit of a strawberry-and-shortcake feel. Rich in flavor and long on the finish with orange, peach, and pineapple. Decadent, so you can take a nap anytime, it’s a two-week tournament after all.
Freixenet Cordon Negro Sweet Cuvée, $9: A great buy that is delicious, refreshing and smooth. It’s lightly sweet for those who can’t stomach the really sweet stuff. It exhibits aromas of peaches and cream with lively bubbles that rise through the glass. Fruity ripe summer peach and tropical fruit flavors culminate in a long, silky sweet finish.
And believe it or not, the Barefoot Bubbly Rosé Cuvée, $8, for the price has pretty decent strawberry and peach aromas with a touch of acidity. A sweet and fruity taste that finishes just slightly drier than you’d expect. Definitely an entry-level sweet rosé sparkler for those who don’t wish to pay much for their quaff—at least, for now.
For the 2015 Wimbledon favorites, the women’s draw is wide open, with all the young players hitting as hard as Serena—who is still probably favored. And in the men’s, can the Brit Andy Murray make the home town fans happy again with another win? Stay tuned and Sweet Dreams, Cheers!