There’s something wonderfully exciting about the English Wine Producers Press and Trade Tasting Event. Could it be the chance to sample well over 100 of England’s finest and newest wines? Or is it the opportunity to talk to the winemakers and owners of so many of the top producers? Or is it just that awesome feeling of goodwill, respect and community that seems to build stronger and stronger each year in the English Wine industry? It was this same event last year that inspired me to start the Great British Wine project, and with all the contacts we’ve made in the last year in the industry our first point of call was to catch up with some familiar faces.
This year I was joined by Andrij Jurkiw, fellow English Wine ambassador and now regular contributor to Great British Wine. We set a mission to try each and every wine on the centre tasting table (115 wines to be exact - more on this later). But before we embarked on that mammoth challenge, we had the pleasure of attending a Sommelier Wine Awards masterclass tasting session hosted by sommelier and wine list consultant Jade Koch. Seven gold medal wines were included in this prolific tasting, including a recent favourite of mine: the Harrow & Hope Brut Rosé 2013 – we have an article on them coming next week!
After the excellent masterclass, we did a spot of networking with the contacts we have established over the last year. It was a great opportunity to hear the latest from Brad Greatrix of Nyetimber, Josh Donaghay-Spire of Chapel Down and Dermot Sugrue of Wiston Estate, amongst many others. I was personally very pleased to see the Mike and Hillary Wagstaff of Greyfriars Vineyard in Surrey at the event, as well as new EWP members Sixteen Ridges Vineyard, who have arrived in style with some lovely still and sparkling wines. Many other familiar faces from Hush Heath, Exton Park, Ridgeview, Bluebell Vineyard, Gusbourne and Biddenden – the list goes on, there are simply too many great producers to mention!
There was also the live presentation of Gold Medal awards to the winners from both Sommelier Wine Awards and the International Wine Challenge – the latter of which was hosted by the brilliant and rather animated Oz Clarke. It was great to see Oz’s clear passion as he passed on some expert advice to winners and the industry as a whole. Like Andrij and myself, Mr Clarke could be seen carefully analysing and dissecting the huge array of wines on the centre table for most of the remainder of the day.
Which brings us onto the wines themselves. From traditional sparkling blends to Blanc de Blancs and Blanc de Noirs, and from fresh fragrant Bacchus to complex white blends and surprisingly involving reds. There was truly something there for everyone, and an overwhelming delivery of excellence in winemaking. With trying so many wines in a few short hours, how could we possibly summarise our tasting notes and recommendations in a single article? The answer was simple, our own 'Great British Wine Awards' allowing us to pick our top wines from all tried on the day, and revisiting many of our favourites from over the last year.
We’ve broken the wines down into 9 categories covering both still and sparkling formats. We both rated all of the wines individually and then narrowed down our top three wines for each category. In some areas there were clear winners. In others, such as the Blanc de Blancs category, there were so many excellent wines that picking three favourites was quite an agonising task. Needless to say, we also have also Commended some of the wines that didn’t quite make it into the top three.
Before we get onto the wines, I just wanted to say a big thanks to Julia Trustram Eve and all of the EWP team for putting on such a fantastic event.
Category 1: Blanc de Blancs
Gold: Nyetimber Blanc de Blancs 2009
Perhaps Nyetimber's most stunning effort to date, their Blanc de Blancs is rich, structured and opulent. A true delight.
Silver: Exton Park Blanc de Blancs 2011
No malo fermentation, no oak usage, just clean and elegant expression of fruit a with rich mineral backbone - distinctive!
Bronze: Wiston Estate Blanc de Blancs 2010
Classic Blanc de Blancs richness, full of ripe orchard fruit flavours with a lovely underlying creaminess
Bluebell Vineyard Estates Hindleap Blanc de Blancs 2010
Chapel Down Blanc de Blancs 2011
Greyfriars Vineyard Blanc de Blancs 2013
Category 2: Traditional Varietal Blends
Gold: Nyetimber Classic Cuvée 2010
An iconic English Sparkler in its most balanced and precise form. This is accessible but beautifully textured.
Silver: Wiston Estate Cuvée Brut 2010
Deliciously balanced with creamy yeasty textures and divine red apple & berry flavours from a Pinot led blend.
Bronze: Hambledon Première Cuvée Brut NV
A stunningly dry and Champagne-like wine. Rich biscuit notes and bracing acidity.
Digby Fine English Vintage Brut 2010
Gusbourne Brut Reserve 2011
Category 3: Blanc de Noirs
Gold: Camel Valley White Pinot Noir Brut 2014
This wine's youthful red berry flavours shine with beautiful clarity and richness.
Silver: Chapel Down Blanc de Noirs 2009
A superbly balanced and developed BdN, perhaps Chapel Down's best Sparkling wine to date.
Bronze: Jenkyn Place Blanc de Noir 2010
One of the most textured BdN's out there, a warm red berry palate with rich biscuity complexity.
Ridgeview Blanc de Noirs 2013
Category 4: Sparkling Rosé
Gold: Wiston Estate Rosé 2011
The pinnacle of English Rosé, the perfect balance of ripe red berry flavours, stunning creamy texture and sublime elegance.
Silver: Camel Valley Pinot Noir Rosé Brut 2013
A delicate sparkling rosé with lovely rich red berry flavours of strawberry and raspberry. Summer in a glass!
Bronze: Hush Heath Balfour Brut Rosé 2011
A superbly balanced textural experience from Hush Heath's flagship wine. Smooth, creamy with lashings of red fruit and hints of mineral.
Exton Park Pinot Meunier Rosé NV
Harrow & Hope Brut Rosé 2013
Category 5: Bacchus
Gold: Lyme Bay Bacchus Block 2015
This is a real powerhouse of a Bacchus. Intense and powerful citrus, rich green and tangy grapefruit notes. Bold & punchy!
Silver: Chapel Down Bacchus 2015
Another great year for Chapel Down's beautiful Bacchus, retaining that perfect balance of citrus & floral with rich tropical fruit.
Bronze: Denbies Bacchus 2013
A subtle but deliciously textured Bacchus, with a more rounded palate of floral, melon and peach flavours.
Sixteen Ridges Bacchus 2014
Bolney Wine Estate Bacchus 2015
Category 6: Other Single Varietal White
Gold: Chapel Down Kit’s Coty Chardonnay 2013
This oaked Chardonnay is elegant & textured, with vibrant orchard & stone fruit, followed by rich buttered toast opulence.
Silver: Litmus White Pinot 2013
Tasted blind we’d never have guessed White Pinot Noir, but it’s stunning. Burgundian weight, orchard fruit, spice & mineral - Intoxicating & powerful.
Bronze: Stopham Estate Pinot Gris 2014
Much cleaner than the top two in the category, but full of fruit – pear, melon & citrus. Pinot Gris personified.
Biddenden Ortega 2014
Category 7: Still White Blend
Gold: Litmus Element 20 2013
The 2011 was one of our long standing favourites & the latest vintage is equally brilliant. Apples, citrus, buttered toast & nuts.
Silver: Lyme Bay Shoreline 2014
Lyme Bay have really stepped out from behind their fruit wine operation. A delicate & beautifully balanced mix of citrus, blossom & nettles.
Bronze: Chapel Down Flint Dry 2015
One of our go-to wines. As intimated in the name, mineral is key, along with an abundance of fruit from the complex blend.
Denbies Ranmore Hill 2013
Category 8: Still Rosé
Gold: Hush Heath Nanette’s English Rose 2014
Using the same grapes as in the flagship Balfour Brut pays dividends – this is the rosé of the year! Delicate fruit with fresh herbs.
Silver: Sixteen Ridges Pinot Noir Rosé 2014
Sixteen Ridges have stormed onto the EWP scene. A ripe & rich rosé with wild berry & melon flavours. Weightier, but equally beautiful.
Bronze: Camel Valley Pinot Noir Rosé 2015
The young gun in our top rosés, which works for the freshness of the fruit. Strawberries are the name of the game here. A real crowd pleaser.
Lyme Bay Pinot Noir Rosé 2015
Category 9: Red Wine
Gold: Hush Heath Manor Pinot Noir 2015
We were blown away when we tried this, it marks a turning point for English reds. Vibrant, rich, oaked red fruit. Just stunning.
Silver: Gusbourne Pinot Noir 2013
So distinctive & so elegant. Bright red berries with a punchy oaked backbone. Lovely grippy tannins, intriguing & complex.
Bronze: Brightwell Oxford Regatta 2013
Dordenfelder done well. Extremely well! Big & bold, with rich fruit, considered oak and firm tannins. An elegant heavyweight.
Sixteen Ridges Pinot Noir Early Red 2014