What a month it has been in English wine! With the Independent English Wine Awards 2019 kicking off the awards season in style (be sure to check out my report on the Gold Medal winners), this month has also seen a tremendous amount of exciting new still and sparkling wines released. The first 2018 wines are making their way to the market, and let me say that they are some of the finest still English wines I have ever tasted! Because of the volume of fantastic wines I have tasted this recently, I have decided to split the Round-up into two parts: Sparkling and Still.
For Part 1, I'm taking a look at a selection of the latest English Sparkling releases. I have once again been exploring the delights of English Blanc de Blancs. This month's highlight was the Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs 2014 (£59.00), which arrives with an ambitious price point, but an indulgent, elegant richness to match. Fellow Kentish producer Chapel Down also made a serious impression with the delicious Kit's Coty Blanc de Blancs 2014 (£40.00), which feels like a step up on the already impressive 2013 vintage, while Hattingley has released a fine follow up in their Blanc de Blancs 2013 (£47.50).
And timed perfectly for the warmer weather we have enjoyed this last week, I have a handful of colourful sparkling rosé wines. Rather excitingly, we received samples of two brand new releases: Black Chalk's second vintage Wild Rosé 2016 (£40.00) and Harrow & Hope's about to be released Brut Rosé 2015 (£32.00). These two wines couldn't be more different, but are both equally appealing in their own unique ways. And then finally there is Woodchurch's IEWA 2019 Gold Medal winning Rosé Brut 2015 (£32.99).
Look out for Part 2 of my round-up later this week, which features a selection of fresh and exciting new vintage 2018 still wines including a Pinot Meunier from Simpsons Wine Estate and a duo of Sauvignon Blanc from Polgoon and Greyfriars.
Blanc de Blancs Focus
Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs 2014
REGION: Kent GRAPES: Chardonnay
Gusbourne's Charlie Holland has been a winemaker that Great British Wine has followed closely over the last few years. His systematic, scientific approach, and knowledge of the many components that make up Gusbourne wines (sometimes as many as 90 individual wines), is hugely inspiring. He describes the Blanc de Blancs as "the truest expression of our terroir" and the 2014 vintages as a watershed moment for Gusbourne.
A small portion of the wine was fermented in old oak before the final blend was aged on lees for 42 months and released with a dosage of 7g/l.
The nose is sublime and vibrant, with red apple, hints of honeysuckle, nectarine and white peach, with noticeable minerality and a mealy, oaty complexity.
To taste, there's an excellent poise and sense of honesty to this wine. The fruit is a little nervy; there is tangy apple and vibrant citrus, but it integrates so brilliantly with the supple mousse.
What a superb wine, and one with plenty of ageing potential.
- Buy from Gusbourne £59.00
Chapel Down Kit’s Coty Blanc de Blancs 2014
REGION: Kent GRAPES: Chardonnay
Chapel Down's Kit's Coty vineyard has led the way for English Chardonnay with top class still and sparkling wines. The 2014 vintage Blanc de Blancs feels a step up on its well-reviewed predecessor.
Much like the Gusbourne, the latest Kit's had an immediately appealing nose. Green orchard fruit, pear and green apple with the opulence of ripe, juicy peach, immediately leapt out of the glass.
This wine absolutely impressed on first taste, combining zingy English youth with that familiar Kit's Coty ripeness and richness. Baked apple pudding and ripe stone fruit flavours set the stage for an incredibly approachable Blanc de Blancs.
Overall, this is one of the best sparkling wines I’ve had from Chapel Down to date.
- Buy from Chapel Down £40.00
Hattingley Blanc de Blancs 2013
REGION: Hampshire GRAPES: Chardonnay
Hattingley Valley's inaugural Blanc de Blancs 2011 won the title of Best Blanc de Blancs in the World at the 2017 Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships. This, the follow-up 2013 vintage, has big boots to fill.
With a small amount of old oak barrel-fermentation (7%), the wine spent four years on its lees and was released with a dosage of 6g/l.
On the nose, the extra year this spent on lees is immediately apparent, as the Hattingley has quite a savoury aroma of toasted biscuit with baked apples and a hint of spice.
It's soft and supple on the palate, with flavours of apple pudding, lemon and toasted bread. There are also hints of ripe stone fruit and biscuity complexity.
- Buy from Hattingley Valley £47.50
Sparkling Rosé Round-up
Black Chalk Wild Rose 2016
REGION: Hampshire GRAPES: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier & Chardonnay
The palest of the three rosés included in this month's round-up, this blend of 41% Pinot Noir, 38% Pinot Meunier and 21% Chardonnay is the second vintage from Jacob Leadley's eye-catching Black Chalk label. The wine spent 20 months on lees before being disgorged in November with a dosage of 7g/l.
The Wild Rose 2016 has an elegant nose of wild strawberry with hints of raspberry as well as soft, light notes of sweet pastry and brioche.
It has a super bright and fresh palate with exuberant youth and freshness that leads to tangy cranberry and raspberry.
This is quite linear and direct, but there's a beautiful sense of purity and an almost powdery, sherbert-like texture. Give it time in the glass, and you will be rewarded.
- Buy from Black Chalk £40.00
Harrow & Hope Brut Rosé 2015
REGION: Buckinghamshire GRAPES: Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
This latest release from Harrow & Hope is their third vintage rosé, and is a blend of 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Meunier that was 30% fermented in oak barriques. A 10% portion of Pinot Noir red wine was added for colour, with a focus on the ripeness of this component. The wine spent 30 months on lees and was disgorged in October 2018 with a dosage of 7g/l.
This is a deeper shade of rose, with opulent, ripe red cherry, strawberry and raspberry notes and hints of vanilla, spice and brioche.
Again, this has brisk acidity, but of the three sparkling rosés, it has a softer mid-taste of ripe strawberry, hints of stone fruit and creamy, soft textures.
This is so very well structured, and, like all of the Harrow & Hope wines, it has a welcoming richness that is sure to go down well as we move closer to English summer time.
- Buy from Harrow & Hope (Available 27th April) £32.00
Woodchurch Rosé Brut 2015
REGION: Kent GRAPES: Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
Woodchurch has been quietly working away since our visit and meeting with owner Graham Barbour back in 2016. This month their Rosé Brut 2015 was awarded an IEWA 2019 Gold Medal. It's a blend of 68% Pinot Noir and 32% Pinot Meunier. The bottle we tasted spent 25 months on lees, and was disgorged in August last year with 11g/l dosage.
The nose on this was quite intense and much more evolved with ripe cherry, toasted biscuit, candied sugar and savoury complexity.
This wine is a big rugged rosé, with bright and tangy red fruit up front before the biscuity, savoury notes kick in.
It finishes on sweet, ripe strawberries with a hint of winter spice and darker berry notes.
- Buy from Woodchurch £32.99