The brains behind Visit Hampshire have decided to try and tackle this oversight by appointing Chef James Durrant (of The Plough in Longparish) as the first Food Tourism Ambassador for the county. In fact, he's the first official food ambassador for any county in Britain.
The aim is simple, to champion the food culture of Hampshire and thus promote the county as a worthy tourist destination, both for native and overseas guests. There are some obvious starting points, as Hampshire has a burgeoning foodie scene with the city of Winchester as a prime example - a Michelin star restaurant with Chef Ollie Moore's Black Rat, an influx of celebrity chefs (Rick Stein and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall) setting up outposts, and one of the largest farmers markets in the UK. But Visit Hampshire and Durrant's task goes deeper, it's to showcase local produce and producers, lesser known chefs and restaurants, and the hidden gems in the county's culinary crown.
So to kick things off, they hosted a Taste of Hampshire lunch at Angela Hartnett's Merchants Tavern restaurant in Old Street, London. With the help of a few fellow chefs, Davies Tanner PR and Hampshire Fare, the event acted as an enticement into what Hampshire has to offer.
The event was introduced with a glass of sparkling wine from Hampshire vineyard Danebury. Although the knowledge and reputation of English wine is on the up, the vineyards (yes, there are several!) of Hampshire are still relatively unknown. The chalk soil of the county is incredibly similar to that of the Champagne region in France, with the average temperature only 1°C cooler, making it perfect for sparkling wines. This was crisp and refreshing with a slight acidity, and proved an excellent introduction to Hampshire winemaking, which Danebury are taking on alongside fellow vineyards, Hattingley, Hambledon, Jenkyn Place, and Exton Park (to name but a few).