By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 27 May 2017
If you have been hearing about the recent devastating frost damage in England’s vineyards and want to support this small burgeoning industry at their time of need, now is the time to do it.
To celebrate English Wine Week (27 May – 4 June), restaurants, bars, merchants, supermarkets and the vineyards themselves are highlighting the progress that has been made in the last decade with events and offers.
To see where the UK’s 500 vineyards and 135 wineries are now based [Hambledon Vineyard in Hampshire pictured], you can order a free map from www.englishwineproducers.co.uk
To help you celebrate the week, I have chosen my favourite English wines – still white, red and sparkling.
SURREY: LITMUS ELEMENT 20 2013 (12%; £16.99 – £22 Waitrose; Harvey Nichols) STAR BUY
This is intriguing blend from the spectacularly warm 2013 made from equal amounts of Chardonnay and Bacchus – and it stole the show again in our taste test. Made by John Worontschak at Denbies, it is bottled in a seriously weighty Burgundian bottle – and the contents certainly match up. White flowers, crunchy green apples,vanilla and coconut from short oak ageing and appealingly soft silky texture – this is the most impressive still English wine I have tasted. The wine’s name comes from the level of calcium, the 20th element, in the chalky vineyards of the North Downs.
DEVON: LYME BAY CHARDONNAY 2015 (11.5%; £15 Marks & Spencer; £16.69 www.lymebaywinery.co.uk; £17.50 www.davywine.co.uk; www.jascots.co.uk)
French oak matured Chardonnay with a touch of Bacchus (clearly these two grapes work well together) from the maritime climate of Axminster in East Devon. Remarkably good considering its origin, it has peachy melony aromas, buttery flavours and creamy vanilla palate – seems fuller than its light level of alcohol.
KENT: GISBOURNE PINOT NOIR 2014 (11.5%; £25 Harvey Nichols; £22-£24 Hennings Wines; Honest Grapes)
2014 was a vintage to remember – and this interesting still red Pinot Noir is one of the best I have tried from the UK this year. It comes from selected parcels in Gusbourne’s Boot Hill vineyard near Appledore planted back in 2004. Fermented in stainless steel, matured in old oak barriques for 10 months. Pale colour, appealing aromas of redcurrants and strawberries with a peppery twist to the flavour, soft supple – a good effort!
WORCESTORSHIRE: SIXTEEN RIDGES EARLY RED PINOT NOIR 2014 (12.5%; £15.49-£16.49 Hay Wines; www.englishwine.co.uk; Jascots; Hawkins Brothers www.sixteenridges.co.uk)
Experienced English winemaker (and cidermaker) Simon Day planted his 6 acre Pinot Noir vineyard ten years ago. Vines are still young, but the first vintages from this very sheltered site show good potential. It might not match up to Burgundy quite yet, but this still red Pinot made from early ripening clones shows real varietal purity of fruit with a soft supple palate.
BLANC DE BLANCS SPARKLING
SUSSEX: RIDGEVIEW MARKSMAN BRUT 2013 (12.5%; £26 Marks & Spencer)
This 100% Chardonnay fizz is one of the best value Blanc de Blancs English sparkling wines on the market. Like many English fizz it is pale in colour with deliciously crunchy red apple and hedgerow blossom notes with a citric core and pronounced acidity – Ridgeview produce this exclusively for M&S using a little French oak to add complexity and depth.
KENT: GUSBOURNE BLANC DE BLANCS BRUT 2011 (12%; £37 Noble Green; Wine Pantry; Butlers Wine Cellar; Lockett Bros; Drinkmonger; Woodwinters; Lea & Sandeman; Berry Bros & Rudd www.gusbourne.com) STAR BUY
This was the clear winner at my recent sparkling wine tasting – with some tasters confusing it with Champagne. Zesty buttery baked apple flavours with marked acidity, nutty, brioche notes in this 100% Chardonnay cuvee which has had three years ageing on its lees.
CLASSIC CUVEE SPARKLING
HAMPSHIRE: HAMBLEDON CLASSIC CUVEE BRUT NV (12%; £29 Marks & Spencer; Berry Bros & Rudd; Hambledon Vineyard)
Made from the three Champagne grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grown in the UK’s first commercial vineyard which was originally planted in 1952 by Sir Guy Salisbury-Jones. The new owner, Yorkshireman Ian Kellett, has invested millions and employed Herve Justin, ex-chef du caves at Champagne Duval Leroy who is a keen organic winegrower. Our tasters enjoyed biscuity and red berry aromas, the savoury palate, mouthwateringly high acid, and focused fruits with quince undertones.
CORNWALL: CAMEL VALLEY PINOT NOIR ROSE BRUT 2013 (12.5%; £26.95 www.camelvalley.com; £28.99 Waitrose)
From the hard working Lindo family who originally bought their Cornish farm on Bodmin moor in 1989 for sheep and cattle, but noticed the grass on the south-facing slopes in front of the house turning brown each summer so decided to try vines. Two decades later they are one of the most awarded vineyards and Bob Lindo is a wonderful host to visitors during his popular grand tour of his vineyards with stories about his frost, rabbit and rodent watch. My favourite in their range is their pretty raspberry-toned and vibrant rose made from 100% Pinot Noir.
SUSSEX: WISTON ESTATE ROSE BRUT 2014 (12%; £27.50 Waitrose; www.wistonestate.com)
I have long been a fan of this fine West Sussex estate and delighted to see that Waitrose now stock the Goring family’s rose fizz. A toasty creamy blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grown on cretaceous chalk planted in 2006, made by the supremely talented Irishman Dermot Sugrue, who used to work at Nyetimber. This rose would work well for those people who find some English fizz too high in acidity, it is soft rounded and gentle on the palate.
Join Rose’s South West France wine & charcuterie tasting in SMWS Edinburgh Thursday 6 July £42 www.rosemurraybrown.com