What a month July has been. We’ve had heatwaves and thunderstorms, and that’s before we get started on the political climate in England at the moment! One thing that’s for sure, though, is that English wine continues to go from strength to strength.
Unfortunately, Great British Wine has been uncharacteristically quiet in July due to my work commitments. However, I have still been out there, visiting producers and attending events, sampling some of the most exciting English wines I have ever tasted. This month’s selection of great wines is concise but uniformly outstanding. It’s a month where youth, texture, skin contact and sublime pink bubbles all unify to deliver an ensemble of English excellence.
This month I’ve mainly focussed on still wines, resulting in perhaps the four most texturally different wines that I could get my hands on. My wine of the month is Denbies Ranmore Hill 2017 (£14.95 Denbies), a white blend that packs more punch and texture than anything else I have tried in July. It’s stunning, and rightfully collected a Wine GB Awards trophy for the Best Blended Wine. Also made in the same winery, is the sensual, texturally outstanding Litmus Orange 2016 (£14.99 Waitrose). Keeping things white, we have yet another exceptional Pinot Gris, this time from Chartham Vineyard (£13.95 Chartham Vineyard). I finish off my still wine selection with the Biddenden Gamay Noir 2018 (£15.50), which, in my opinion, is one of the best English red wines on the market right now.
The April round-up concludes with a duo of delightful boutique sparkling rosés that are drinking beautifully in the summer sun. The Coolhurst Lady Elizabeth Sparkling Rosé 2015 (£42.00) impressed me with its gorgeous textures and complexity. Finally, the Herbert Hall Brut Rosé (£44.50 Lea & Sandeman) excelled with its vibrant red berry flavours and decadent biscuity undertones.
June in Pictures
Wine of the Month
Denbies Ranmore Hill 2017
REGION: Surrey GRAPES: Pinot Gris, Bacchus & Chardonnay
This was the first new English wine that I tasted this month, and wow, what a place to start! The Ranmore Hill 2017 is a blend of Pinot Gris, Bacchus and Chardonnay, and yet another example of just why we should be taking Denbies Wine Estate seriously.
Let’s begin with the nose: a curious fusion of ripe peach, hints of lightly grilled tropical fruit, with a twist of lime and a lightly smoky, herbaceous note that just draws you in.
Then there’s the vibrant, textured palate that grabs you with both hands, and just doesn’t want to let go. Starting with trademark fresh, crisp green fruit and fleshy white peach, the finish is long and drawn-out with floral and hedgerow flavours and just a hint of spice.
This is up there with some of the best textural English whites I’ve had. Kit’s Coty and Flint Fumé watch out. Denbies are in town, and they mean business!
- Buy from Denbies Wine Estate £14.95
Textural Still English Wines
Chartham Pinot Gris 2018
REGION: Kent GRAPES: Pinot Gris
It’s great to see smaller English winemakers go from strength to strength; this latest Pinot Gris 2018 from the Waller family in Kent is my favourite wine from them to date.
It all begins with a hugely inviting nose of white peach, honeysuckle, nectarine and kiwi. It’s a bright, fruity fusion but lovely and fresh at the same time.
To taste, there are lots of crunchy orchard fruit flavours; think pear and then riper, fleshy peach with hints of tropical fruit salad.
This is a really well made Pinot Gris, with lots of crunchy green fruit and zestiness upfront, but with the delightful ripeness and summer sunshine of the 2018 vintage showing through.
- Buy from Chartham Vineyard £13.95 (2018 launching soon)
Litmus Orange Bacchus 2017
REGION: Surrey GRAPES: Bacchus
Before I get started on this review, I must say that this is a bold, divisive wine that is sure to split opinion. With that said, I love it.
The nose is a glorious adventure of the unusual. There are aromas of banana peel, black tea, bubblegum and dried herbs, with white pepper.
The palate on the Litmus Orange is equally compelling, with a fusion of grassy aromatics and grilled tropical fruits.
The finish is long and drawn-out, with interesting notes of white pepper, grape skin tannin and an unusual union of tropical gummy sweets and funky bruised fruit notes. A hugely distinctive and compelling wine.
Biddenden Gamay Noir 2018
REGION: Kent GRAPES: Gamay
This has got to be one of the English wine surprises of the year. It’s a true 100% English grown Gamay red wine made by Kentish wine pioneers, Biddenden, well-known for their aromatic whites. And it’s absolutely delicious and engrossing.
The colour alone suggests depth and intrigue with its vibrant magenta and purple notes. And then the nose. Oh, what a nose! There’s crushed red cherries, hints of blackcurrant, spice and then a big waft of red rose petal and damson.
The palate is both youthful and plush, and undoubtedly serves best a little chilled. Upfront, it’s all about the intense red cherry and wild raspberry flavours, with a lick of black berry fruits and a reassuring savoury depth.
Is this really an English red wine? Why yes, yes it is! This is a must-try, and the perfect summer red to serve lightly chilled with its Beaujolais-esque charms.
- Buy from Biddenden £15.50
Summer Sparkling Rosé
Herbert Hall Rosé Brut 2015
REGION: Kent GRAPES: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
I had the pleasure of stopping by at Herbert Hall in Marden, Kent, this month. I have a larger feature on this exciting, artisan producer coming in the next couple of weeks but I had to get the word out on their sparkling rosé.
First up, there’s the beautiful nose of raspberry, cranberry and wild strawberries with a delicate hint of shortbread and biscuit.
The Herbert Hall Rosé 2015 is even more delicious to taste, with a fruit-forward palate of ripe strawberry and raspberry, and tangy redcurrant and citrus notes.
There is also a very welcoming light creaminess to this wine which adds texture and contrast to the fresh, crisp red berry fruit flavours. It’s just exactly the kind of rosé that you want to be sipping outdoors on a hot summer’s day.
- Buy from Lea & Sandeman £44.50
Coolhurst Lady Elizabeth Rosé 2015
REGION: Sussex GRAPES: Pinot Noir
With its striking presentation, Lady Elizabeth Rosé is now in its second vintage and comes from a 6.5 hectare vineyard situated on the Coolhurst Estate in Sussex. The 2015 vintage is made from 100% Pinot Noir, which spent at least two years on the lees, and was released with a dosage of 5g/l.
The Coolhurst has a rather appealing salmon flesh hue, and lots of tiny bubbles, to lift a surprisingly charismatic nose. There are aromas of cherry and raspberry, with hints of toasted biscuit, dried tangerine peel and light oxidative notes.
It’s similarly engaging on the palate, with bright red cherry and cranberry flavours that soften to creamier textures and flavours of warm brioche.
What I really enjoyed about this wine was how welcoming it was; it felt a step up, from a textural point of view, from the many (excellent) fruit-forward English rosé wines.
- Buy from Coolhurst £42.00 (use code "coolhurst-first" to buy at £36)