28 October 2016

Naked picking for English Sparkling Wine

I was recently lucky enough to be invited to help with the grape harvest for a future English Sparkling Wine. Ok, so we weren't actually naked (it was far to cold for that nonsense) But our hosts were Naked Wines and one of their English wine suppliers, Ian Kellett from Hambledon Vineyard in Hampshire so it was definitely Naked style!

I jumped at the chance as I've never helped with harvesting grapes before and I was keen to learn more. But, on the day in question, the weather couldn't have been much more dark and dank. It had seemingly rained all night and the roads were flooded on the way to the vineyard.

However, we were given a really warm welcome by Founder and MD Ian Kellett (and a warm coffee and croissant). And the vineyard looked as beautiful as ever, even through the rain.

We were all presented with our pruning tools under strict instructions not to chop any fingers off! It felt like a lot of pressure and my little team of my husband and another Naked Wines Archangel, Leon, got a little bit OCD with making sure we didn't miss any grapes. I personally think we were perfect pickers! 

It wasn't as hard going as I'd thought especially as there were so many juicy grapes and we were fortunate enough to be picking in a field where most of the grapes were at head-height. Thankfully, the sun shone nearly the whole time and my fingers remained in tact at the end!

Once we'd finished picking we went on a tour of the winery operation. I won't go into this too much as I already wrote about how fab it was in my post about a day trip to Hambledon Vineyard.

On this visit though we were lucky enough to have to have the MD and Founder of Hambledon wines giving us the tour. What shone through really crisply from Ian were three key themes:

Firstly, yes, they are using similar techniques, equipment and winemakers to the French. But with their own slant. Ian was a biochemist in a former life, clearly an innovative entrepreneur and massively driven. To such an extent that he even personally planned and designed the huge fermentation tanks. I really felt like they were taking the best of the French model and building on it. 

Secondly, quality. No cutting corners. No sloppy methods. Everything done the right way to make a truly quality bottle of sparkling wine. 

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Ian and the team clearly feel like they are on cusp of potentially something great for English Sparkling wine. The weather, the chalky soil together with the quality and innovative methods, meant that Ian believed within his lifetime, England would be making perhaps 50 million bottles of wine a year. Big stuff.

The few bunches that us Angels and Archangels picked that day will help towards the clutch. In fact, we picked enough to make 1,020 bottles!

And, yes, we got to enjoy a few glasses of the good stuff. Hambeldon supplies two Sparkling Wines to Naked Wines and since this was a Naked event, it was these that we had the pleasure of tasting at the end. 

My favourite without a doubt was the Pink Fizz called Old Winchester Hill Oeil de Perdrix NV which was named after the area the wine grapes are grown. Served perfectly cold in glasses that Ian designed himself (of course, I'd expect no less) it had lots of beautiful, small bubbles, deliciously dry and a light, blushed pink colour. 

I'll definitely be putting a few bottles in my next order. And, who knows? Maybe I will buy a bottle in the future containing some of the grapes that we picked!

30 September 2016

A groovy wine tour at Domaine O'Vineyards

I'd heard from some of the other Naked Wines Angels and Archangels that a visit to the Domaine O'Vineyards in France is an absolutely excellent experience. So when we were in the Languedoc this summer, we decided to book a night with meal and wine tasting with Joe and Liz O'Connell.
Joe giving his
groovy wine tour

It was a really, really hot on the day we visited. Apparently it was the hottest September that the region could remember. We'd spent the day wandering around nearby Carcassonne and lying by the lovely but very breeze-less Lac de la Cavayere and we were literally expiring when we arrived.

We were over half an hour early, but Liz, Joe and Muse the dog opened the doors and welcomed us into a wonderfully cool room and opened an ice-cold bottle of delicious white wine. It was absolute bliss. And, it wasn't a thimble-full of wine either, it was a nice, big, juicy glug.
The view from our balcony

Liz and Joe were like these super cool hipsters. Not cool in a modern way. More a laid back, 70s throwback sort of way. Joe kind of shuffled around in his Hawaiian shirt, jeans and sandals, humming away to his Beatles and Elton John music with a wry, knowing smile while Liz wafted in and out in her denim shorts and huge shades. Apparently they met while she was sunbathing nude on a beach in California. Says it all really. Very cool.

My husband and I
enjoying the yummy wines
The winery and the vineyards were absolutely stunning. Joe had designed the building himself and the decor and structure were an interesting mix of modern, rustic and baroque. All peppered with art that you felt they'd collected on their journey through life. Our bedroom had a fabulous view of the vines and I joked to Liz that I would need a ladder to get onto the ginormous bed. Everything was very luxurious and felt like a proper treat. Again, probably not stylish in a modern or conventional sense, but all very cool, eclectic and distinctive.

When everyone else arrived, Joe introduced the event as "not a wine tasting, but a wine drinking". And, that really set the tone for the event. The measures were generous as were the hosts with their time and attention.
Stunning sunset over the vines

The tour itself was informal and fun. It didn't feel like a stuffy lesson on winemaking. But it had enough content to be interesting and enough interaction for us all to feel comfortable and get chatting.

Joe and Liz moved to France with their son Ryan to make the type of wine they wanted to make, the way they wanted to make it. Apparently, there have been some frustrating times along the way navigating the Languedoc Appellation rules. But he'd come out the other side and has earned a great deal of respect for his wines and methods both in France, England and across the pond in America where his son, Ryan does a great deal of work with Naked Wines USA.

Me with Joe and Liz
and the star of the show, Muse
At the tasting and meal, we were treated to glass upon glass upon glass. So much so that I think we tried everything in their range. The wines were stylish and interesting, without taking themselves too seriously. For example, all the bottle labels were designed by the family and one even had the head of a Naked Wines Archangel on it. 

My favourite wine was probably the O'Chasan 2015. I'd never tried a pure Chasan wine before, but apparently it is a popular, but underrated wine of the Languedoc region. Very light and easy drinking and perfect served crisp cold. We also loved the O'Syrah 2011. A smooth and peppery Shiraz that left my mouth warm and very happy for a long time after each sip. 
We tried pretty much the
whole range

The food was all lovingly prepared by Liz. The website promoted the meal as "home cooked food". Well, if you live in a house with about 20 chefs! I have no idea how she managed to create all that food. We enjoyed course after course of interesting and intricate Asian-French-Californian fusion food. And Liz lovingly enthused about how she made each dish and her added personal touches. 

But the real star of the show was their beautiful conker dog, Muse. He seemed to lead the wine tour, obviously knowing the route by heart. Staring lovingly up at us all with gorgeous eyes, hoping to perhaps get a few of Liz's supper treats.

What a view to have from
your dining room table!
When we finally stumbled to bed, I've never seen such a beautiful sky from our balcony overlooking the vines. Hundreds of stars and with not an artificial light or sound in sight.

The whole experience was extremely relaxing, very decadent and, well, groovy baby....

21 September 2016

A wine tour with Virgile Joly (a day spent with the beautiful people)

On a recent trip to the South of France, I thought I would visit a few of the winemakers whose wines I have particularly admired on the Naked Wines website. So, of course, I had to visit the wine legend that is Virgile Joly whose cellar door is in Saint Saturnin de Lucian.
Views from Saint Saturnin

Saint Saturnin couldn't be more French if it strung some onions round its neck and wore a beret. The town consisted of a restaurant, a hotel, Virgile's cave, the church and a few stone houses. Everything was fading slightly at the edges and pretty much the only person in sight was a slim lady brushing up some leaves from the restaurant floor (in a very laid back, unhurried fashion). It was like a scene from a movie (something arty in French that I probably wouldn't understand!)

Camille in the Vines
But then Magdalena, Virgile's partner who I had met at a wine tasting in the summer, arrived followed by our tour guide, Camille Renault. Both were incredibly welcoming, spoke amazing English and were, frankly too attractive!

Camille drove us to a vineyard overlooking Arboras which is where Virgile has his actual winery. In the car, I said to my husband "didn't she have the most beautiful eyes"? 

It was a gloriously sunny day and the view over the vines was completely stunning. The plants looked green and lush and the sun was glinting off the leaves. All the plants looked amazingly uniform, like they had been perfectly tamed to grow in little lines in identical shapes. All around the air was filled with the buzz of little tractors putting around the countryside assisting with the harvest. 
The grapes being sorted
We then proceeded to meet Virgile and see some of the wine production. In the car on the way, I said to my husband, "why don't we live somewhere like here?"

I'd never been lucky enough to visit a winery during harvest and everything was in furious, focused production. Two men were effortlessly scooping up ginormous crates of luscious looking grapes and emptying them onto a conveyor belt that took the grapes for sorting. The whole building and courtyard smelt very sweet and fruity.

Virgile showing us around
the winery (with his
dreamy hair)
Virgile was kind enough to spend quite a lot of time with us. I'm sure he must have been extremely busy with the harvest. But he never seemed as though he was pressed for time and was extremely generous with his attention. 

We tried some of the juice from the grapes that had been picked yesterday. I've never had the privilege of trying day old wine before, but the liquid was clear, crisp and incredibly sweet. I could have drunk it all day. Virgile spoke passionately about his organic methods and how he does his best to respect nature. Producing quality, unique and individual wines of which he was very proud.

The ridiculously
stunning view from the winery

He told us that he was worried about how some of his wines were fermenting. And he wasn't sure whether to add more oxygen or to change the temperature. Evidently, he is serious about his art and wants to make the best wines possible. I get the impression that he worries a lot.

Finally, we went back to Saint Saturnin to try some wines. In the car on the way back, my husband said "now there is an attractive man, I am very jealous of his hair."

The range of wines we tried

We went into another building (how many buildings does Virgile have?) to try the wines. Camille with the beautiful eyes explained to us that all of Virgile's wines are very distinguished and have a "feeling" of the man that runs through them all.

Camille spent a great deal of time "helping" us to smell and taste the wines. Sadly, despite us enjoying wine and spending a lot of time talking about it, we are clearly complete heathens when it comes to describing the subtleties of the wine. But she was very patient and kind and the whole experience was really enjoyable and the wines were delicious.
Tasting the wines

My personal favourites were, despite me not being a massive pink wine fan, his Saturne 2015 rose which was fresh, light and perfectly dry. I also enjoyed his Carthagene Rose Liqueur wine which had a wonderful pinky-orange colour and tasted of lychee and rose. One of the nicest sweet wines I've tried in a long time.

Lunch at Le Pressoir
Part of our tasting package was to have lunch at Le Pressoir restaurant over the road. I think we were the only English people in there and lots of the people around us looked as though they had just stepped in from the harvest to enjoy a glass of pastis. The food was delicious, but mostly I have no idea what I ate. I couldn't even read the hand written menu board, let alone translate it into French. Poor waitress had to resort to "moo" and "baa". We washed it all down, whatever it was, with a bottle of Virgile's Saturne Rose. A great experience.

We had the most wonderful time and I would encourage anyone to visit Virgile and try his wines. However, be prepared to feel slightly unattractive, slightly unworthy and very, very English. And also, just a tiny bit in love with Virgile Joly....

You can buy Virgile's wines in the UK on the Naked Wines website. And, he is such a complete legend that there is also a book about him which is available on Amazon. But be warned, you may be more in love with him and Magda after reading it!

17 September 2016

A day trip to Hambledon Vineyard

I first met Ian Kellet from Hambledon Vineyard at a Naked Wines tasting event. My husband and I enjoyed several glasses with him and bent his ear about English Sparkling wine. So this summer we thought we'd pay the vineyard a visit since it is only down the road from where we live.
Beautiful vineyard in rolling
Hampshire countryside

We contacted them via their website and discovered they had a range of wine and food events as well as a vineyard tour which is what we opted for. 

Despite it being a fairly dark and dank day when we visited the vineyard, the Hambledon estate is absolutely stunning. Long rows of vines stretching seemingly endlessly down across virtually unspoiled countryside views. Who knew we had such beautiful wine country here in England?
Bottles fermenting

Arriving late (as usual) we missed the start of the tour. But I guess there was about 15 people on the tour. My husband laughed when he saw everyone and said "Typical English people, getting dressed up to the nines to walk round what is essentially a farm in the rain". Too true.

Felix conducting the tour
Winemaker, Felix, conducted the tour. He clearly had a passion for winemaking and the production methods at Hambledon. Interestingly, despite this being an English vineyard, nearly all the machinery and many of the wine makers are French. It seems that, English wine production is still relatively speaking in its infancy. 

But it's led by Ian who is a Yorkshire man and all of the marketing team we met were English. So I guess there's a balance. 

Tasting some of the
good stuff
I'd never been on a Sparkling wine vineyard tour, so most of the production method was new to me. Especially as nearly everything they do at Hambledon is by hand. To make a sparkling wine, apparently there is a second fermentation in the bottle, with every single one of the bottles being stored at an angle and turned by hand every day (riddling). Labour intensive stuff and evidence of the care and love they put into the production.

They planned to start harvesting the grapes the second week in October which is apparently a month after France. But with the warmer weather in England this is a really exciting time for English wine production. And all the team seem really excited about what the future holds. 

Finally, we got to try some of the good stuff. Sadly, we only got to try one glass and none of the Hambledon wines. But I guess English Sparkling wines is pricey stuff and there were quite a few of us on the tour that day. Ian has subsequently told me that it's not really viable to open too many bottles. And perhaps doing wine flights and charging slightly more will be something they will consider in the future. 

We actually tried a glass of Meonhill Grande Reserve which was absolutely delicious. 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay, with tiny bubbles and a really crisp, fresh and sherberty. This wine was grown on an estate that Ian and the team recently purchased and apparently is the English Sparkling wine that Virgin Airways has chosen to serve in upper class.

They have a number of wine events between now and Christmas. Including the chance to make your own Sparkling wine for Christmas. 

A lovely vineyard to visit and the wine we tried was absolutely exquisite. Very much looking forward to trying the wines we bought on the day!

25 August 2016

Naked Wines calls on members to pledge their pounds for the future of English Wine

At 8pm on 25th August, Naked Wines is launching a very exciting new proposition for their members (or Angels). They are asking Angels to put their money where their glass is and invest in the future of English Sparkling wine. 

Here's what they're doing...The hope is that, if enough Angels pledge their pounds, then Naked Wine Growers Charles and Ruth Simpson will have enough money to produce a new English sparkling wine exclusively for Naked. 

Not only does the Angel money fund the production of the wine. They also get to help decide the branding, blend and name for the wine. Let's hope they use their power for the good (thankfully, Winey McWineface has already been overruled)! Plus, all investors get anywhere between 2 and 6 bottles from the production of the first fizz which will be delivered by Christmas 2018.
Charles and Ruth Simpson

I've recently become a Naked Wines Archangel. Which meant the bosses ran the crowdfunding campaign past us prior to launch. And, although there was widespread excitement from the Flight, there was some concerns. Will members be willing to invest in a wine that they won't be able to sip until 2018? With the British weather so unpredictable, will this be too much of a risk?

Well, I for one hope it will be an amazing success. With English sparkling wine more popular than ever, this feels like a real opportunity to be part of something at the very beginning. And, who knows, if this is a success, maybe there will be more crowdfunding opportunities for the public to invest in English wine.

So come on Naked Angels, press that green buttonhttps://www.nakedwines.com/marketplace. We only need 1,200 of you to make history! I'm so nervous, it's enough to drive you to drink....

2 July 2016

My first ever Naked Wines Tasting Tour

At the beginning of the tasting
Ever since I joined Naked Wines in April 2012 I've wanted to go to one of the events on their tasting tour. But for one reason or another (work, then pregnancy then babysitter) I've been unable to go.

So, I was delighted this year when I was neither pregnant nor working and the tour was coming to Southampton, on a Sunday!

The tasting programme
The pre-event marketing claimed there was going to be 30 wine makers and 139 wines to try. I literally could not have been more excited! Plus, all the Angels on the Naked Wines forums were chatting about it and I literally could not wait. I was so excited that I had three cocktails beforehand, which in hindsight was an error....

The tasting started at 2pm and all the visitors joined an orderly queue outside the Guildhall in Southampton (we are so British!). When we got in, there was a huge hall full of wines. It was just fabulous.

139 wines to try
I've been to lots of tasting events before and they have often been pretty snobby. However, it immediately became clear that this was not that sort of event. In fact, the organisers were actively encouraging us to take selfies with the winemakers (I'm yet to discover if I won the selfie competition!). 

With Serena from Cordero
wines and ArchAngel Leon
Plus, nearly all of the people working the stands were the winemakers themselves, not just some rep or agency staff. I guess some of that comes down to the whole Naked Wines ethos. The money that the Naked Wines Members (or Angels) invest into Naked Wines goes towards funding independent wine growers. So, I guess for most of the winemakers attending the event, this was an opportunity to promote their wines to their key audience.

Rocking it like a redhead with
Jen Pfeiffer.
Either way, I had an amazing time. I chatted to loads of winemakers, other Naked Angels and also some of the Archangels (Archangels are the elite members of the Naked Wines crew and their job is to help promote Naked Wines via the forums and events such as the tasting tour). Everyone was super friendly, no-one mocked my pitiful wine knowledge and most of all I tried some delicious wines!

My highlights included (and there were loads, so I'm sorry if I've missed you out):

Ian Kellet and son from
Old Winchester Hill
- Meeting Serena from Gianfranco and Serena Cordero wines. We got married in Italy and we are a bit obsessed with Italian wines. In fact, I am drinking one of their Barbarescos that we bought at the tasting as we speak! She was so friendly and I'd never tried any of their wines before and I loved them.
- Rocking it like a redhead with Jen Pfeiffer. Jen Pfeiffer is an Australian winemaker and something of a legend on the Naked Wines Forums. Again, I'd never tried any of her wines before and I especially loved her "The Rebel Bubbles", which was light, fresh and zingy and my new favourite sparkling wine.
Rod Easthope, an absolute
- Trying Naked Wines' first English grown wine. For ages, Naked Wines has been promising us an English wine. And, finally we have one and it is grown just down the road from where I live. Ian Kellett was there with his son serving his new "Old Winchester Hill" sparkling wines. At the end of the tasting, we ended up stood chatting while drinking a bottle of Gerd Stepp Reisling. Absolutely delicious and what a nice man. I hope his venture is a huge success.
- Meeting one of my favourite Naked Wines growers, Rod Easthope. I love his pinot noirs, I love his Sauvignon Blancs and I got to try his Merlot Cab Franc which I'd never tasted before. The man lived up to my expectations! 
Lovely Serena from Cordera
- Finally speaking face to face with some of the Naked Wines Crew. Highlights were (very slurred) thanking the event organiser Seb for organising such an incredible event. And meeting some of the Archangels including lovely Leon who even indulged me with a selfie. 

Overall, it was a great event. The brochure encouraged us to use the spittoons. However, to my chagrin, I did not and drank far too much. I lost my brochure, I broke my selfie stick. I took photos of people and have no idea who they were. 

Who are these people? Does
Anyone know?
If you get the chance to go along to one of the events, I'd really urge you to. The tickets were only £15 and you got the price of those back if you ordered a case of wine (which we did). And, for that price you get a lot of really high quality wines, great conversation and a lot of fun. My advice though? Use the spittoons and don't have three cocktails beforehand.....

What I drank on holiday in Spain

If you read my blog, you'll see that I recently went on holiday to Almeria in Spain

When we arrived I was completely flummoxed as to what wine to buy! I don't often drink Spanish wine, for no reason other than that I don't know that much about it. I also think that Spanish wines have got a bit of a bad reputation in England as "cheap plonk"!

And, my lack of knowledge became very evident when we tried some of the wines. We bought quite a lot of turkeys from the supermarket, quite a few I actually (shock horror!) poured away.

Nearly all the restaurants we went to offered almost exclusively Spanish wines with no description of taste, dryness or style. And, likewise, very few of the bottles in the supermarket had tasting notes on the label (in English or Spanish).

So I thought I'd let you know what we drank and actually enjoyed, in case you go to Spain sometime soon.

Guti Verdejo from de Alberto

Before we went to Spain I'd recently enjoyed a Spanish Verdejo by Franck Massard which I got from Naked Wines. His Herbis Verdejo is from the Rueda region of Spain and most of the wines we enjoyed were Rueda Verdejos. This De Alberto Guti was was crisp and dry and went perfectly with our seafood platter. It also had a white, plastic cork which I found very delightful. It cost us about 10 Euro and I don't think it is currently available in the UK. 

Colección Cristina Calvache Blanco de Alboloduy

It is possible that part of the reason I enjoyed this wine so much was the sun, sea and Sangria. However, at the time I loved it! A very pale yellow wine, fruity but balanced with acidity. Lovely flavours of melon and apricot. We had it very, very cold and I would guess it is probably best served this way. This wine is actually grown in Almeria from a grape I have never tried before called the Jaén Blanco. Worth a try.

Jose Pariente Varietal Verdejo
Another Verdejo from the Rueda region. It smelt slightly of aniseed so I was concerned it was going to be sweet. However, it was fruity but citrusy. I found it to be very crisp and dangerously drinkable. I think we paid about 7 Euro for the wine and have found the same wine in the UK on the Selfridges website for £14.99.

Matsu El Recio 2013 Toro

My husband had seen this wine in Majestic before we went on holiday. Each of the bottles carries a photo from three generations of wine growers. The "El Ricio" wine means 'the tough one' and is grown from wines that are 90-100 years old. Not only did the bottle look really cool, the wine itself was delicious. The Tempranillo grape was very silky, velvety and smooth with lots of black fruitiness. We enjoyed it with some steak and it went perfectly. Retails at £13.99 in Majestic, we bought it for half the price in Almeria.

Spain has a reputation for cheap plonk. And, yes there was lots of that. You could easily buy bottles of red and white wine for 3 or 4 Euro. However, most of the ones we enjoyed were a bit more expensive than that. But, even in the restaurants, we found the wines to be really reasonably priced and much affordable in the UK. However, you have to be careful what you buy as a lot of the white wines are very sweet and the red wines can be quite harsh. 

25 June 2016

A daytrip to Carboneras in Almeria

While on holiday at the HPB El Pueblito de Alfaix in Almeria we took a day trip to Carboneras which is at the gateway to the Cabo de Gata Natural Park.

Our view from lunch

We'd been told in our welcome meeting that Carboneras was a great place to experience fresh fish in the area, but that it was less touristy than other regions such as Garrucha. And, it was near some beautiful, white beaches, so we thought we'd give it a try.

From inland Alfaix, we took the coastal road via Mojacar to Carboneras. We'd been warned that the road was beautiful, but a bit white knuckle. The windy road afforded an amazing view of the coast cornered by the Sierra Cabrera Mountain Range. It was a bit squeaky bum, but nothing compared to the Amalfi Drive that we experienced on our honeymoon! 

My son's "high chair"
When we arrived at Carboneras, it was practically deserted! We decided to eat at an unassuming place called Chiringuito J. Mariano because it had a lovely position on the beach and had good reviews on Trip Advisor

The staff were super friendly and helped us to a seat with amazing views over the beach. There literally was not a single person in our eyesight. The sun was shining, the sea looked azure blue, it was absolutely blissful.

Our view from lunch
Similar to many restaurants we visited, they had no high chairs for my toddler. But they tried to accommodate him by stacking two plastic chairs! He didn't seem to mind, but I wish we'd brought our booster seat as he kept trying to escape.

They had a dish of the day,  but the waiter encouraged us to choose a selection of fresh fish and salads. To be honest, we had no idea what we were eating. But it tasted incredibly fresh (we were told it was caught that day) and great value. 

The wine we enjoyed
over lunch
All washed down with a delicious bottle (or 3 or 4) of Spanish white. Like nearly all the restaurants we went to, the wines on offer were all Spanish and without any explanation of grape, taste or dryness on the menu. So we took the recommendation from the waiter and it was very delicious. 

After lunch, we hopped in the car and drove further down the coast into the Cabo de Gata Natural Park. We happened to stop at this beautiful beach called Playa Agua Amarga

We parked up on the sand and strolled down to the sandy beach. On one side flanked a rocky cliff riddled with caves. From this cliff stretched about a mile of wide, golden beach. Again, with hardly a person on it.

My son on Playa Agua Amarga
The sea was fairly choppy with a stony bed making it somewhat tricky to go in and out! But the water was warm and even wimpy old me leaped in for a swim. 

It was June when we visited and, although the whole area gets fairly windy in the afternoons, it was still baking hot. And, we were delighted to find a little, shady bar off the beach called Los Taharis. We enjoyed a deliciously cold glass of beer and my son dripped an ice-cream all down himself.

We had a wonderful daytrip to the Carboneras region. The whole Carboneras area was very quiet and felt like it was waiting to be discovered! If you're looking for white sandy beaches, fabulous food and to feel remote and secluded, this is the region for you. However, I'm sure it will soon be discovered, so enjoy it now before the tourists descend! 

Travelling with the Mothercare XSS Pockit Stroller

We've travelled abroad with out little one four times now. And, previously, we have always taken our Bugaboo having bought a special flight bag for it. Since our boy is nearly two, when travelling to Spain this year, we thought we could probably cope with a more light-weight stroller for holiday.

Using the XSS on the beach
As I've written in a previous post, it is perfectly possible to fly with a Bugaboo. However, as you have to take the wheels off and take the seat apart in order for it to be flat and you have to carry the bag around the airport (and it's fairly cumbersome), we decided that something that folded easily flat would be more practical. 

After some deliberation, we decided upon the Mothercare XSS Pockit Stroller. The blurb about it said that it folded down "incredibly" small and that it fitted into the overhead locker of the plane. 

The XSS stroller in the
overhead locker
I could only find a couple of other buggies that folded small enough to be carried onto the plane including the Quinny Zapp and the Mountain Buggy Nano. However, at £129, the XSS Pockit Stroller was a much more affordable option.

It does fold down really small and fits into an easily portable bag. On our outward flight with Monarch from Gatwick, we effortlessly stowed the stroller on the overhead locker. And, it folds down and up incredibly simply, in one complete piece, in virtually a single movement. 

Wheeling my son
off the runway
The advantage of carrying the stroller onto the plane is that, when you disembark, you can literally pop it up and your toddler can sit straight in it on the runway. This means you don't have to worry about him wandering off or having to carry him through check in and onto baggage collection before you can collect the buggy from oversized baggage. This would be especially useful if you were only taking carry on and would enable you to bypass baggage collection altogether.

I was a bit worried that it might not be robust enough for rough terrain or the beach. But actually, it fared no worse than the Bugaboo on the sand. And, since it weighed less than 4kg, even when it faltered on sand, I could easily pick it up in one hand and carry my son in the other.
My son napping
in the stroller

The other thing I was worried about was whether the XSS Pockit Stroller would be comfortable enough for my son to sleep in. Normally he sleeps in his cot, but on holiday you have to plan to all eventualities such as delayed flights (or missing them!). And, on the last day, we had to exit our villa at 9am and weren't flying until 6pm meaning he had to have his daytime nap in the stroller. And, after some persuasion, he did have have an hour long sleep in there quite comfortably. 

There were a few downsides to the XSS Pockit Stroller. Firstly, it came with a very small sun shade which didn't provide a huge amount of coverage. And, you'll see from the photo, I had to rely on a muslin when he slept. However, because both sides of the stroller were open, even with the shade up, my son had a really great view enabling him to satisfy his nosy side.

Another downside was that the straps were really difficult to adjust. Again, you'll see from the photo that we didn't exactly succeed with the adjustment! However, he didn't seem to especially mind.

The final drawback was that the footrest was not adjustable. My son's feet were a good few inches off the footrest. Since my son is already 12kg and the stroller only goes up to 15kg, I'm not sure he is ever going to be tall enough to reach it! Again though, he didn't seem to mind his feet dangling.

Overall, we loved our XSS Pockit Stroller. It was much easier to travel with then the Bugaboo. It collapses incredibly easily, is super lightweight and perfect for taking on overseas holidays. 

One word of warning. When you check in, make sure you tell the staff that you intend to take the buggy onto the plane. On our return flight from Spain, we didn't tell Monarch and the stewardess hunted us out on the plane to find out why we hadn't handed a buggy over at the gate. They were fine with it being in the locker, but I think there is some procedure or paperwork that needs to be completed.