Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Celebrate English Wine: English Wine Producers Tasting 2015

Roll up! Roll up! English Wine Week is coming! From 23rd - 31st May… That's NEXT WEEK.

In my excitement, I ventured to London last week to attend the English Wine Producers Trade & Press Tasting 2015, with the aim to scout out some of the latest - and most delicious - English wines on the market. It was a pretty big affair held at One Great George Street, right next door to Big Bloody Ben, with over 100 wines to try! Yep. Over 100 wines.

I’d not even heard of half of the vineyards that were exhibiting, probably due to the slim pickings of English wines in our supermarkets, and I was genuinely surprised by just how many wines our little country produces (and this was merely a selection!). It’s flippin’ awesome! But don’t worry, I’m not going to make this a super patriotic blog post, let’s get down to the wine chats.

Photo Credit: Nyetimber
A tasting table took centre stage, running the entire length of the room, with wine producer stands lined up around the edges. As you could probably guess, English Sparkling Wine took up a high proportion of the central table, with a number of whites, some rosés, and a handful of reds and late harvest wines.

English Sparkling Wine is where we nail it; in the last 16 years ESWs have won 8 trophies for Best International Sparkling Wine and 6 trophies for Best Sparkling Rosé in global competitions, something no other country has achieved! The UK vineyard area has grown enormously over the years, and the majority of which is mostly planted for the production of the fizzy stuff (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir being the most popular).

We’ve featured a number ESWs on Vinspire, and you can generally find a selection next to the Champers on the high street shelves (I’m a diehard Nyetimber obsessive), but I was keen to see what else was on offer, and as it turned out, quite a lot! I had a long list of non Champagne varieties/blends, Blanc de Blancs, traditional Cuvées, Blanc de Noirs, Sparkling Rosés, Rosé de Noirs and Demi-Secs to work through. A few personal stand outs were as follows:

Bluebell Hindleap Blanc de Blancs 2010

*IWC15 GOLD + SWA15 SILVER* Made from 100% Chardonnay grapes grown in Bluebell vineyards, this wine seems to be winning a number of awards within the industry. A gorgeous honeyed peach melba aroma prevails, with lemony citrus notes to balance it out. Being aged on the lees for 30 months has resulted in a more complex, sophisticated and ‘Champagne’ style wine. It has a super soft mousse, full of juicy apples and pears, and a long tongue tingling finish.

Bluebell Hindleap Rosé 2010

*IWC15 SILVER + SWA15 GOLD* With roughly two-thirds Pinot Noir to one-third Pinot Meunier, this has lovely fresh flavours of summer pudding. Pure fruitiness of cranberries and strawberries, are intertwined with rose petals and orange zest. There's deliberately a touch more residual sugar than previous vintages, giving the wine a broader palate that has crisp acidity as well as a nice hint of creaminess.

Hattingley Valley Classic Cuvée 2010

*IWC15 GOLD* This pale gold beauty highlights Hattingley Valley's outstanding craftsmanship. 90% Chardonnay, 5% Pinot Noir and 5% Pinot Meunier, the Classic Cuvée offers a delicate floral nose, with sweet red berries and green apples. It's toasty rounded palate, with a gentle oak flavour adds interesting complexity, and the brisk acidity leaves you craving more.

Hattingley Valley Kings Cuvée 2011

*IWC15 COMMENDED* A very limited release, the Kings Cuvée is a blend of the three classic varieties - 33% Chardonnay, 33% Pinot Noir and 33% Pinot Meunier. Pale gold with aromas of red berries, the palate is fruity with plums and apples, a subtle hint of freshly baked brioche, and balanced with crispness and a fine mousse. It's certainly a stunner, but at £65 I wonder if it's worth it?

Wiston Estate Cuvée Brut 2010

*IWC15 SILVER* Wiston wines not only look sexy, but taste bloody good too. Situated on the South facing chalk slopes of the South Downs, West Sussex, their Cuvée Brut is a blend of 33% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir and 22% Pinot Meunier. Given a very low dosage (the sugar solution added at the end of the production process), fruit shines through, and there's a wonderful sharp sherbet quality to it.

Wiston Estate Rosé 2011

*IWC15 GOLD* Made up of 57% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Meunier, this wine has been barrel fermented with minimal intervention. It's an attractive style, plump and juicy strawberries balanced by the crisp profile of rhubarb-like Chardonnay, and notes of vanilla come through too. Incredibly drinkable, this is the epitome of English summer.

Chapel Down Blanc de Noirs 2009

*IWC15 SILVER* A rich sparkling wine, made from the white juice of black grapes, this is ever to slightly pink tinged. This Blanc de Noirs - with 97% Pinot Noir and 3% Pinot Meunier - is full of cherries and berries on the nose. Faint brioche notes help it's silky mouth filling palate, and very fine floral bubbles slip down and disappear unnoticed. An opulent offering from Chapel Down!

Nyetimber Demi-Sec NV

English wine heavyweights, Nyetimber, were to first to create an English Demi-Sec made from 100% Chardonnay grown in Southern England. It has a high dosage of 44 grams per litre residual sugar, making it ideal for when a sweeter wine is required, i.e. with dessert, or even better, afternoon tea! Wonderful honey and lemon curd flavours are at the forefront, balanced by a zingy citrus acidity that cleanses the palate and showcases this ultra-refreshing wine.

Time seemed to run away with me, meaning I didn’t get to try many still wines, but that’s not to say they should be overlooked. Still wine production continues to thrive, with Bacchus being the most popular aromatic grape variety in the UK. Of the few I tried, some note-worthy ones were:

Litmus White Pinot 2012

Litmus White Pinot, made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes grown in Surrey, is a seductively structured wine. Rich with ripe roasted peaches, honey, and vanilla, a touch of oak adds a toasty texture with elements of spice. It's soft and creamy, but defined tannins give it a fabulously long finish.

Chapel Down Kit’s Coty Estate Chardonnay 2012

*IWC15 SILVER + SWA15 GOLD* Named after a nearby neolithic monument, Kit's Coty is the first single-vineyard release from Chapel Down, and it's an oaky little number. Nearly all barrel-fermented, sweet stone fruits have been given a smoky edge, with buttery notes. There's a savoury-green tang, and a citrus flourish on the finish, which would make it a great wine to have with food.

Astley Veritas 2011

*IWC15 COMMENDED* Veritas is a single varietal Worcestershire wine, made from the Kerner grape, a Riesling cross rarely found in England. An off dry style, it's aromatic with rich fruit flavours, smoke and spice. Lime and green apple acidity ensures a lasting finish, and an overall exciting wine.

Brightwell Pinot Noir 2012

Our British climate doesn't often go hand in hand with red wine making, but this one from Brightwell was lovely. Big cherry and currant flavours are given a bit of spice thanks to being matured in oak. It's wonderfully rounded with subtle tannins and a long, dry finish. Great on it's own, but would be ideal with meats and cheese.

Denbies Noble Harvest 2014

*IWC15 COMMENDED* A dessert wine with a difference; made from the nectar like juice pressed from Ortega grapes that are infected with noble rot (Botrytis), this is a rare occurrence, and the prize of a great season! Denbies have only ever produced three vintages of Noble Harvest since the vineyard was planted in 1986, so this is pretty special. Seamless honeyed fruit, it's sweet and juicy, but a lemony backbone stops it being too sickly.

You can’t deny it; English Wines are on the rise. Slowly but surely, we seem to be moving out of the “this is an English wine” quirky oddity kind of mind set, and instead are pointing out that these are wines worth talking about. With an exceptional record-breaking harvest in 2014, due to the long warm spring and summer months, next year is set to be bigger and better. I’ll raise a glass to that; personally, I can’t wait!

Click the links for full listings of this years English Wine winners at the International Wine Challenge and Sommelier Wine Awards.

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