Our supermarkets are teeming with local asparagus. We’ve just experienced the coldest March since 1962. Finally, and most importantly, it’s English Wine Week and the weekend is set fair.
We hardly need more excuse to crack open a bottle or two… But what to go for?
It has to be English of course, and I’ve been saving up my notes and recommendations from the English Wine Producer’s (EWP) tasting at the beginning of May specifically for this significant week in the English wine calendar.
I’ve already written several recent pieces on the UK wine scene, including one on a very large blind tasting of English fizz and a night with the Duchess of Cornwall, so, without further ado, let’s get down to my top tips from the tasting.
I’ve included individual website details for each estate so that retail sales enquiries can be made. The wines are listed in the order of tasting and all wines that scored 7 or above are included.
Camel Valley Annie’s 2010, £24.95 (100% Seyval Blanc) www.camelvalley.com – Deeply coloured with mineral and creamy, bread-like aromas. This highly engaging fizz is intensely flavoured with vibrant lemon rind and green apple fruit. It is rounded and mouth-filling with a vibrant, tangy finish. 7/10
Ridgeview Grosvenor Blanc de Blancs 2010 PDO, £29.95 (100% Chardonnay) www.ridgeview.co.uk – Lifted aromas of white flowers and fresh bread are met by bolder, orchard fruit flavours in the mouth. A lovely balance of rounded and fresh with a bright, lemon-flecked finish. 7.5-8/10
Bluebell Hindleap Blanc de Blancs 2009 PDO, £23.99 (100% Chardonnay) www.bluebellvineyard.co.uk – Toasty and mineral with a distinctly Champagne-like feel. Nicely developed, this savoury, yeasty fizz is a little short but otherwise very elegant and refined. 7/10
Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs 2008 PDO, £28.99 (100% Chardonnay) www.gusbourne.com – Fabulously characterful stuff as ever from Gusbourne. Rustic – in a good way – and packed with bruised red apple fruit, it also has an intriguing herbal note. I went back to this wine several times during the tasting and it kept improving. 7.5/10
Nyetimber Blanc de Blancs 2007, £39.00 (100% Chardonnay) www.nyetimber.com – One of the star wines of the day, this is a highly accomplished and beautifully developed blanc de blancs. Creamy, brioche and red apple aromas lead into a multi-layered palate that perfectly balances acidity with weight of lemon flavour and a streak of steely minerality. Long and impressive. 8/10
Nyetimber Classic Cuvée 2008, £29.99 (79% Chardonnay, 13% Pinot Noir, 8% Pinot Meunier) – More bready and broad than the blanc de blancs, this slightly less refined but still fresh and appealing fizz has a rich, truffley flavour. 7/10
Gusbourne Brut Reserve 2008 PDO, £24.99 (36% Chardonnay, 37% Pinot Noir, 27% Pinot Meunier) – Broad, honeyed and yeasty – Gusbourne’s Brut Reserve is showing particularly well at the moment. 7.25/10
Henners Vintage 2009, £27.00 (33% Chardonnay, 33% Pinot Noir, 33% Pinot Meunier) www.hennersvineyard.co.uk – The first wine to be launched by this East Sussex producer (last November), it is minerally and bready with a fine, rounded character. Although I slightly preferred it to the more expensive vintage reserve and rosé also on show, they are all well made wines that bode well for the ‘multi-vintage’ blend that we’re promised for 2016. 7/10
Ridgeview Knightsbridge Blanc de Noirs 2010 PDO, £32.95 (50% Pinot Noir, 50% Pinot Meunier) – This full-flavoured fizz has all the breadth and character you’d expect from a really well-made blanc de noirs. Packed with honeyed, baked apple fruit, it’s a delicious mouthful of English loveliness. 7.5/10
Ridgeview Fitzrovia 2010 PDO, £27.95 (64% Chardonnay, 32% Pinot Noir, 4% Pinot Meunier) – Salmon pink and scented with a gently oxidative, bruised red apple aroma. Sappy redcurrant fruit and yeasty overtones lead the way in this mouth-filling and very satisfying rosé fizz. 7/10
Nyetimber Rosé 2008, £45.00 (58% Chardonnay, 42% Pinot Noir) – The most expensive wine I tasted but, yet again, one of the stars of the day from Nyetimber. It’s more deeply coloured than the Fitzrovia and offers wonderful complexity of flavour. Rich and plummy it has lovely, vibrant acidity along with savoury hints of toasted bread and nuts. Very impressive. 8/10
Bolney Wine Estate Cuvée Rosé Brut 2011, £26.95 (100% Pinot Noir) www.bolneywineestate.co.uk – Fragrant and very Pinot Noir-like, this works well in a savoury, bready way. 7/10
Bluebell Hindleap Rosé 2010, £24.99 (61% Pinot Noir, 39% Pinot Meunier) – I’ve tasted this wine on several occasions and it never ceases to impress me, particularly when you consider the value for money it offers. It has an attractive onion skin colour and is rounded, fresh, bready and tangy with ripe, strawberry fruit flavours. 7.5/10
OAK-AGED DRY WHITE
Gusbourne Guinevere 2011 PDO, £19.50 (100% Chardonnay) – This is the first time I’ve tasted a still wine from the Gusbourne estate – and it’s a great start. A lightly oaked chardonnay that is well-made and stylish with fresh, lemony acidity. 7/10
Chapel Down Kit’s Coty Estate Chardonnay 2011 PDO, £14.99 (100% Chardonnay) www.chapeldown.com – This wine was so impressive that I immediately made it our ‘Wine of the Week’ and bought a case for the cellar. To read my thoughts click on this link. 8/10
Litmus Red Pinot 2011 (Denbies Wine Estate), £25.00 (100% Pinot Noir) www.denbies.co.uk – Rather like drinking a summer berry frangipane tart with clotted cream, this is a rich and succulent pinot with an attractive leafy note on the finish. 7/10
Biddenden Gamay 2011 QW, £10.00 www.biddendenvineyards.com – Bright, leafy and black-cherried, just as gamay should be. The perfect English red to lightly chill and serve at alfresco summer parties – if the weather ever picks up. 7/10
POSTSCRIPT: Although Jenkyn Place, Hush Heath and Hambledon didn’t make it into this list, they are all producing very noteworthy wines and are estates to watch both now and in the future.