Nespresso Vertuo Cheltenham Festival Sasha Wilkins

This is a Sponsored Post in association with Nespresso

This illustration by Cathy Thomas for Nespresso may well turn out to be one of my top three favourite things from this year. Well, it’s November already so it’s highly likely…I mean – just look: it’s like my version of the Arnolfini portrait, a replete with symbolism about my life and loves. There’s Lettice, with the most genius expression on her face, a globe in my hand for my love of travel, a steaming cup of coffee because I’m always on the go as an entrepreneur (and because I love coffee)…

Nespresso Vertuo Cheltenham Festival

I was at The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival this year as a guest of Nespresso. To mark the launch of  their Vertuo system – which delivers exceptional quality coffee with an irresistibly rich crema in a mug, and which marks Nespresso’s biggest redefinition to date, they are collaborating with a number of individuals who have redefined their lives in pursuit of their own passions.

Nespresso Vertuo Cheltenham Festival

So, in a corner of the Nespresso stand at the Festival stood the lovely Cathy, ready to illustrate our lives – or what we might redefine our lives to be in the future. Given that I made a huge career 180 back in 2009, going from the life of a shiny New York fashion editor to giving up my home, possessions and job to launch a digital platform that eventually became a happy success, I decided that I was currently an embodiment of redefining a life – and so my illo reflects my present.

Clare, my oldest friend (we went to boarding school together), came with me to Cheltenham. She’s a highly trained classical and jazz musician who has also redefined her life – she’s gone from presenting for the BBC at the Proms to running a phenomenally successful children’s music business (Mini Mozart), and so she chose to have herself depicted as a conductor – am excellent concept for someone running a musical business, intertwining career and family every day.

Nespresso Vertuo Cheltenham Festival Clare Shaw

Brilliant illustrations done, we spent our weekend at Cheltenham stretching our minds (and our tummies – of which, more later). Four of the speakers at Cheltenham this year were talking about their journey to break their status quo and follow their dreams. The inspirational individuals identified by Nespresso who have redefined their lives are musician and cheesemaker Alex James, motorcycle explorer Lois Pryce, traveller Alastair Humphreys, and cook and restaurateur Thomasina Miers, all of whom Nespresso believes are ‘redefiners’.

Nespresso Vertuo Cheltenham Festival Sasha Wilkins

We also went to listen to the wonderful Paula Hawkins, another redefiner, who found success after many rejections of her novels. She spoke about the importance to her of being able to talk about familial roles and female familial relationships, of exploring women at different stages of their lives and, most importantly, the frequent dismissal of women and their stories. It was deeply inspiring to see how the success of Girl on a Train has allowed her a platform to talk about these things.

Nespresso Vertuo Cheltenham Festival

That evening we were invited to dinner with Nespresso at 38 The Park, a beautiful boutique hotel in the town, hosted by Alex James, Blur band member and hellraiser turned farmer and cheesemaker. And, if that’s not a redefinition, I don’t know what it is.

Nespresso Machine Vertuo Capsules Cheltenham Festival No.38 The Park

The evening’s menu was designed to complement and highlight the flavours of the various Grand Crus in the Vertuo range.

Nespresso Vertuo Dinner Place Setting Cheltenham Festival No.38 The Park

Nespresso Machine Vertuo Capsules Cheltenham Festival No.38 The Park

I was very impressed with the set up for the coffees in one of the side rooms – it was like the coffee station of dreams.

Nespresso Vertuo Capsules Cheltenham Festival

It turns out that the Vertuo makes the most epic Nespresso martinis – the crema adds the most delicious richness without being cloying.

Nespresso Vertuo Dinner Cocktail Red Wine Cheltenham Festival No.38 The Park

Oh and Alex’s cheeses…they are excellent. As good a reason for redefining one’s life as I can think…

Nespresso Vertuo Cheese Cheltenham Festival No.38 The Park

And so to the Vertuo itself…we got to play with the system over breakfast at our hotel in Cheltenham, The Malmaison.

Nespresso Vertuo Cheltenham Festival Malmaison
The first thing that you notice is that the capsules are a different shape – like little bowler hats, and come in a range of capsule sizes that together allow for different coffee styles from espresso to a large cup. They have a bar code around the edges, which is read by the machine: at the touch of a button, the intelligent system automatically recognises the Grand Cru variety being brewed and adjusts the extraction parameters to create the perfect dark full-bodied coffee, produced by the unique Centrifusion™ technology, and finished with that silky and generous crema.

Nespresso Vertuo Capsules

Nespresso Machine Vertuo Capsules Cheltenham Festival

Nespresso Vertuo Coffee Latte Cappuccino Cheltenham Festival

I was very curious – I don’t drink milk in my coffee – an espresso or an Americano is my coffee drink of choice, and I wasn’t sure if the Vertuo, with its emphasis on cups of coffee, would be for me. But the joy of the Vertuo is in that extraordinary  – and delicious – crema. I have always preferred the espressos I make at home with my traditional Nespresso machine because the crema it gives is far superior to those in most coffee shops, so hurrah for the Vertuo which is ALL about the crema.

And, if you do drink milk. then the Vertuo’s Reverso which, by adding milk to the cup before the coffee begins to fill it, allows the milk to enhance the natural crema and provides an exceptionally creamy texture to the coffee.

Nespresso Vertuo Cheltenham Festival

The next day we headed back to the Festival to hear Mary Berry speak in the most enormous tent, sponsored by Nespresso; she’s yet another person who has redefined their life. Her fame needs no explanation for British readers but, for my international readers, Mary Berry, who is now in her 80s, had a steady career for many years as a much loved cookbook writer and cookery teacher until she was propelled to major stardom in the UK as a judge on The Great British Bake Off, and has since become a fully-fledged celebrity and household name.

Nespresso Vertuo Cheltenham Festival

Then there was time for one last Vertuo coffee with afternoon tea before we took the train back to London.

Nespresso Vertuo Coffee Latte Cappuccino Cheltenham Festival

Nespresso Vertuo Coffee Afternoon Tea Cheltenham Festival
Vertuo brings with it a new range of 20 Grand Cru coffees. The three different sized capsules can create a range of coffee cup sizes, with each carefully blended and roasted to deliver a quality coffee experience, whatever the occasion.

The largest size, Alto (414ml) offers a delicate aromatic taste to be enjoyed in a longer cup size, complementing well-balanced body and bouquet of gentle aromas of the Mug size (230mL). The Gran Lungos (150ml) offer the prolonged pleasure of an espresso and the Espresso blends (40ml) have an intense flavour profile.

Vertuo is available in black, silver and titanium from Nespresso boutiques, online at and selected retail partners. RRP £199 / €239

With huge thanks to Nespresso for hosting Clare and myself for two nights in Cheltenham to attend this year’s The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

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