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The York Food and Drink festival takes place next month. Christine Austin reports on the highlights.

If you haven’t secured your tickets to events at The York Food and Drink Festival then now is the time to do so. With wine, beer and cider tastings, food and wine matching and even chocolate tastings there is plenty to wrap around your tastebuds between September 20 to 29 in the heart of York.

I will launch the drinks programme with a Champagne tasting at Melton’s Too on Friday, September 20 at 7pm. There will be eight champagnes from small, medium and some of the largest champagne houses and we aim to find out whether the quality and flavour in the bottle has any relationship to the size of the producer. My guess is that it doesn’t, but it could be great fun finding out. Tickets cost £25.

On Tuesday, September 24 we are delighted to welcome Master of Wine David Bird who is an expert on Tokaji wine from Hungary. As consultant to The Royal Tokaji Company, he has deep knowledge about these expensive and exclusive wines. Tokaji (pronounced Tock-aye) is one of the wonders of the wine world. Throughout history it has been described as the King of Wines and the Wine of Kings and also as the wine with the colour and the price of gold. Made from grapes that have been allowed to dry on the vines it is picked berry by berry and allowed to ferment very slowly. It is matured in deep underground cellars dug out centuries ago, where the passages have been kept deliberately narrow so that the marauding armies from neighbouring countries could not invade and steal the wine. Queen Victoria was sent dozens of bottles every year by the Emperor Franz Josef and lived to a ripe old age, perhaps because of its legendary life-sustaining properties.

Tokaji is a sweet wine, but because of its unique method of production it has vibrant acidity that keeps the palate clear. We plan to match several grades of Tokaji with a variety of desserts to show how it combines wonderfully with them. Just to add interest and to make this a complete Hungarian experience there will be a main course of Hungarian Goulash served with dry wine from the region as well. This event will take place at The Treasurer’s House at 7.30pm and tickets cost £25.

The following evening (September 25) there is an opportunity to dine at The Treasurer’s House again, this time in the company of Montes Wines. Founded by one of Chile’s most dynamic and talented winemakers, Aurelio Montes, the company now makes wines in Chile, Argentina and California. Originally billed as an evening with Aurelio himself, I regret that he is now required to be in California at that time to take charge of the vintage and so he is sending his sincere regrets and instead will be replaced by his deputy, Eduardo Stark also from Chile who will present a range of Montes wines. Despite this last-minute change of plan, this will be a fantastic evening, bringing together some of the finest flavours South America, and 
maybe California if we are lucky. The tasting sheet is still being drawn up but
it should be another great evening at 
The Treasurers’ House. Tickets cost £35.

One event which should not be missed at The York Food and Drink Festival is the big Field and Fawcett Wine Fair on Saturday, September 28. Organised by York’s premier wine retailer, this event brings together many of their suppliers who cheerfully pitch up on a Saturday to open their wines and pour them into your glass. The format is simple. You get a glass at the door and wander around the tables, tasting as much or as little as you like.

The great thing about this tasting is that the people who are pouring the wines are knowledgeable about them and are keen to pass on information, but only if you want to find out.

You can just go from stand to stand and just appreciate the flavours. Because of the popularity of this event it is divided into two sessions, from 3pm to 5.30pm and from 6.30pm to 9pm. Tickets cost £15.

Also on Saturday is the opportunity to taste wines from one of the most beautiful and historic parts of Bordeaux. St Emilion, situated on the right bank of the Gironde is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and is surrounded by rolling vineyards, producing outstanding wine. The Jurade de St Emilion, which used to rule the region now has just a ceremonial role and members of the French Jurade have visited York on many occasions, bringing a swirl of crimson robes and several cases of excellent wine with them. The Jurade has a North of England branch, based in York headed by Tim Hartley and he will present a selection of St Emilion wines with lunch at Melton’s Too. Tickets cost £30.

Other drinks events include a series of Taste Workshops presented by Karen Hardwick featuring Port, Burgundy and Douro wines, matched to Parma ham and Parmagiano-Reggiano cheese. These run on September 21 and 22 at 12pm and 2pm, priced £6. Karen is also in action on Saturday evening when she presents a selection of South African wines with a cheese and cold meats supper at The Mansion House. Included in the line up will be the 2013 Sauvignon Blanc from Andre van Rensberg of Vergelegen. Tickets cost £25.

With a Cognac masterclass from Gareth Morgan, cheese and wine matching with Karen Hardwick and beer tasting with Jeff Evans this is a packed programme of drinks event. There are also dinners, roves and a programme of events at dusk when you can settle down with a glass of champagne or a glass of beer to enjoy entertainment in Parliament Street. Details of the whole programme can be found at www.yorkfoodfestival.com and bookings can be made on-line or by ringing 01904 635149.

Ticket prices quoted are the full price, but if you are a Friend of the Festival you will get a discount.

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