It’s St. Georges Day, the sun is shining (at least it is at the time of posting this article here in Surrey), and you can guarantee at least a couple of glasses of English Sparkling Wine will be on the agenda for me today. What better day to celebrate by opening a bottle of delicious home grown bubbly? For this feature I’ve decided to focus on one particular Sparkling style that I’ve acquired quite a taste for; that style is Blanc de Blancs.
So what’s so special about Blanc de Blancs? For many English Sparkling producers, this name signifies their flagship wine. Meaning ‘white from white’, a Blanc de Blancs is made from white grapes only. Often just single varietal Chardonnay, there are some producers also incorporating Seyval Blanc into the blend. Usually produced only in very best vintages and vinified from a single year’s harvest, these elegant wines often have a very focussed flavour profile; big on orchard fruit flavours and accompanied by rich and rounded bread, biscuit and brioche notes.
Of the six wines I’ve selected, all are made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes and are Vintage releases. Some are from the well-known established producers including Sussex’s Nyetimber and Kent’s Chapel Down, who’s latest Blanc de Blancs 2011 was described to me by winemaker Josh Donaghay-Spire as possibly being their best yet. I’ve also included some of the lesser-known gems out there that we have discovered over the recent weeks, including Dorset’s English Oak Vineyard and a truly stunning wine from Hampshire’s Exton Park. This week I was also invited to Greyfriars Vineyard in Surrey and had a chance to revisit their Blanc de Blancs 2013 amongst other delights – it’s superbly rounded and rich, and priced at a just £21.00/bottle.
So without further ado, lets get onto the wines in question and raise a toast to St. George!
Bluebell Hindleap Blanc de Blancs 2010, Sussex
This delicious wine from Bluebell has benefited from a couple of extra years in the bottle.
With a lovely golden colour, this wine has vivid aromas of baked apple, stone fruit, lemon and the added nutty complexity of toasted almond.
The palate remains dry but fruit focused, with layers of tangy apple flavours running through everything. It’s beautifully balanced, with a superb biscuit and nut complexity develops on the lengthy finish.
Buy From Waitrose £23.99
Chapel Down Blanc de Blancs 2011, Kent
As with previous vintages we've got lovely notes of baked apple, but also there’s weighty aromas of pastry, biscuit and nut.
I find the palate on this vintage slightly fresher and crisper up front; green apples and citrus peel before the delicious complexity sets in with a lengthy finish of toasted oats and almond notes.
A perfect melding of that crisp fresh English character with a Champagne-like complexity and depth.
Buy Direct From Chapel Down £29.99
Exton Park Blanc de Blancs 2011, Hampshire
I visited an excellent Sparkling Wine event in London this week organized by Glass of Bubbly magazine, and this was hands down my favourite wine on show.
Exton Park’s house style of clarity and fruit expression is demonstrated here in spades with lively aromas of citrus and English orchard fruit.
The palate is full with rich apple, pear and fresh zesty lemon flavours. Great clarity with a distinctive underlying minerality. Stay tuned for our full review of this delicious wine in the coming week or two.
Buy Direct From Exton Park £39.95
Greyfriars Blanc de Blancs 2013, Surrey
This wine sings with a bright and colourful nose; baked apples, citrus zest and rich toasted brioche and sweet vanilla.
Those rich apple flavours continue through on the palate, where the vibrant tang meets a lovely smooth creamy texture. It’s one of those wines you will just keep reaching for another glass of.
And the biggest surprise? It’s priced at just £21.00/bottle. I really can’t think of a better value English Sparkling. It also helps that this fantastic local wine is grown and produced just 15 miles from my home!
Buy Direct From Greyfriars £21.00
Nyetimber Blanc de Blancs 2009, Sussex
Surely one of the most exciting English Sparkling releases of the year, Nyetimber’s 2009 vintage of their flagship wine is seriously divine!
Starting with fresh citrus zest and mineral notes, the nose then develops with rich pastry aromas, baked sourdough bread and hints of spice.
As well as the usual BdB flavour compounds of orchard fruit and citrus, this wine has a superbly elegant and luxurious mouthfeel, leading to a superbly lengthy and textured finish.
English Oak San Gabriel Blanc de Blancs 2010, Dorset
A clean elegant nose of crisp green apples and citrus and just the merest hint of pastry.
The palate continues this clarity of expression, with the green apple, pear and citrus peel taking a refreshing centre stage.
Persistent bubbles provide a refined mousse leaving to a lovely lengthy finish, suggesting another year or two in the bottle will help this develop into something really special.
Buy From English Oak £31.99