It's English Wine Week, and I'm pleased to say that I've had a chance to taste a lot more new vintage 2018 English wines over the course of May. These new releases are continually superb, and getting more and more diverse in style and execution. I've been very busy in the last few weeks, visiting venues and producers for the launch of new wines including Rathfinny Wine Estate, Westwell Wines, Albury Vineyard, Blackbook Winery, Off the Line Vineyard and Simpsons Wine Estate. It's been a brilliant month of contrasting wines, and I've included the best of the crop in the May round-up.
On the sparkling side, I've featured a duo of delectable prestige offerings. Firstly, we've got the second vintage of Chapel Down's Coeur de Cuvée 2014 (£100.00), which is so beautifully pure that it just had to be my Wine of the Month. Speaking of purity, Albury's new Prestige Cuvée (£42.95) impressed with its striking dryness and bright, precise fruit too. On the more playful side, Albourne's new Bacchus Frizzante (£15.00) is a new take on Bacchus, and combines soft, light bubbles with the grape's aromatic and zesty charms.
My still wine highlights this month include the excellent, textural Silex Blanc (£18.99), a vibrant and almost tropical Winbirri Bacchus 2018 (£14.50) and the vivid Westwell Field Blend 2018 (£19.50) of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
New Prestige Sparkling
Chapel Down Coeur de Cuvée 2014
REGION: Kent GRAPES: Chardonnay
It has been a brilliant run of new releases for Chapel Down so far this year but this, the second vintage of their flagship Coeur de Cuvée, is their most exciting wine of the year.
This wine is made from the very best portion of Chardonnay grape juice known as 'the heart of the first pressing'. It is wild fermented, was matured on lees in oak for seven months and released with residual sugar of 6g/l.
On pouring, the radiant nose on this wine was immediately attention-grabbing, with red apple, peach skin, honeydew melon and delicate toasted vanilla brioche notes.
The palate was instantly gratifying with opulent, ripe fruit flavours of peach and melon with hints of fleshy tropical fruit. There's lots of structure too, with an underlying crisp apple and tangy grapefruit cut-through, supporting top notes of toasted nut and harmonious oak integration.
This is a celebration of English Chardonnay purity, and it comes with such welcoming texture and complexity that you can't help but smile.
- Available Soon from Chapel Down £100.00
Albury Estate Prestige Cuvée 2014
REGION: Surrey GRAPES: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier & Chardonnay
Next month sees Albury Organic Vineyard celebrate its Ten Year Anniversary, and the official launch of Vineyards of the Surrey Hills, where yours truly will be hosting a duo of Surrey Hills wine masterclasses.
It’s fitting, then, that they have also just released their new flagship Prestige Cuvée, which is a blend of 50% Pinot Noir, 25% Pinot Meunier and 25% Chardonnay with 2g/l dosage.
Straight away, on pouring, I noticed the shimmering golden tones, with the nose offering aromas of red cherry, orchard fruit, honey roasted nuts and crushed oyster shells.
To taste, the Albury has quite a brisk, linear initial bite; the purity of the ultra-low dosage lets the fruit do the talking. Flavours of crunchy red apple with tangy cranberry take hold and evolve through to lingering almond complexity.
To make it this dry was a brave move, but, given the right food pairing (I'm thinking fresh oysters or very light seafood dishes), then the purity of this wine excels.
Albourne Bacchus Frizzante 2018
REGION: Sussex GRAPES: Bacchus
Albourne Estate has made some fantastic wines over the last few years, and their Bacchus has always been a standout. So I was very much anticipating this brand new, lightly sparkling Bacchus made using the Charmat/tank fermentation method.
The Albourne has all that classic Bacchus varietal character, with cut grass, elderflower and green citrus aromas.
To taste, it's got a brilliantly clean and zingy greeting, with developed flavours of pear, green apple and tangy grapefruit.
What I enjoyed about this wine was the balance of fresh, crisp acidity and low sugar (4g/l ) compared to other Charmat method wines I have tasted. It's a very pure, dry expression of Bacchus but with the added lift of the light bubbles.
- Buy from Albourne Estate £14.95
New Vintage Still Wines
Flint Vineyard Silex Blanc 2018
REGION: Norfolk GRAPES: Pinot Noir & Solaris
With a couple of very good vintages under its belt, Norfolk's Flint Vineyard feels like it’s really entering its stride with vintage 2018. I loved last month's Pinot Noir Précoce but this brand new Silex Blanc is really something else.
With Silex meaning Flint in French, this wine is an intriguing white blend of 55% Pinot Noir and the 45% Solaris. It's aromatically outstanding, with a fragrant nose of dried citrus peels, tropical fruit, mint and chalk stone.
The palate has poise, texture and nuance; simply put, it's fantastic. There is a bright, tangy, intense limey bite up front that leads to ripe, juicy tropical fruits and tangerine oil flavours. There’s bags of complexity in the form of floral, mineral and nutty notes with excellent length.
This wine was such an exciting sip, and my favourite of an incredibly strong line-up of 2018 wines from Flint.
- Buy from Flint Vineyard £18.95
Winbirri Bacchus 2018
REGION: Norfolk GRAPES: Bacchus
With big boots to fill, following on from the much talked about Decanter Platinum winning Bacchus 2015, this latest vintage delivers a more intense, supercharged Bacchus experience.
I loved the nose on this wine as soon as I poured it; it's bursting with intense, juicy tropical fruit, zesty lime and grassy, nettle aromatics.
The just-released nature of this Bacchus provides intensity and vibrancy that stands out - I loved that. There are bright zingy lime and grapefruit flavours, with passion fruit and gooseberry notes.
While intense, it's got a lovely grassy depth and texture that lingers pleasingly. This is the best Bacchus I've had from Winbirri to date, and I wouldn't be surprised if it goes on to receive similar acclaim to the 2015.
- Buy from Winbirri £14.50
Westwell Field Blend 2018
REGION: Kent GRAPES: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
I met with owner/winemaker Adrian Pike at the end of last month, and had a quick-fire tasting through Westwell's new wines. I just had to give this one a little more attention as it was really striking. It's a field blend made from two rows of Pinot Noir and one row of Chardonnay that was co-fermented.
It has a most vivid ruby red colour, with a dynamic nose of cherry, wild strawberry and dried herb notes.
The palate is textured and complex, and not the fruit bomb that the colour would suggest. Yes, there are ripe red cherry and strawberry flavours, but there's also a surprising depth, with hints of black fruits, savoury and dried herb notes and a most inviting grip of subtle tannin.
Serving it lightly chilled boosted the textural qualities for me, giving the tannins a little more intensity and enhancing a tangy cranberry finish.
- Buy from Westwell £19.50
Greyfriars Rosé 2018
REGION: Surrey GRAPES: Pinot Noir
The 2018 vintage marks a few changes for Greyfriars, and this wine, their Pinot Noir Rosé, has had both a new look in its smart new bottle, and a switch to non-malolactic ferment to embrace the purity of the 2018 wines.
On the nose, there is bright lemon zest and pink grapefruit with raspberry, light red cherry and cherry blossom notes.
To taste, this has a brisk and racy freshness; there’s lots of tangy cranberry and raspberry red berry flavours with a big hit of grapefruit tang.
It's super-refreshing, and one to drink well-chilled and outdoors in the sun.
- Buy from Greyfriars Vineyard £13.50
Off the Line Hip Rosé 2018
REGION: Sussex GRAPES: Pinot Noir
This month saw Off the Line Vineyard launch not one, but three excellent 2018 vintage rosés. All three are crisp, bright and precise but it was this 100% Pinot Noir rosé that particularly caught my attention.
Firstly, it's got that pretty, pale salmon colour that is very Provence-like. It's got a graceful nose too, with raspberry, cherry, grapefruit and cherry blossom notes.
The palate stands out for a number of reasons as well. Firstly, the bright bursting acidity is bold but not overwhelming. There is also pink grapefruit and raspberry that softens to riper red cherry flavours, with a slight hint of white pepper on the finish.
What also appealed was the relatively low a.b.v. of 10.5%, ensuring this a rosé that you can generously sip away on without feeling too guilty about the units!
- Buy from Off the Line £18.50
Danebury Madeleine Angevine 2016
REGION: Hampshire GRAPES: Madeleine Angevine
A brand new vintage of a long-standing Great British Wine favourite, this is Danebury Vineyard's signature wine, made from the interesting Madeleine Angevine grape of Loire origins.
The latest 'Mad Ange' has the signature character of crisp green apple and pear, yellow melon and citrus fruit, with clean floral notes and a hint of grassy meadows.
To taste, the Danebury has a pure, fine palate that begins with crisp orchard fruit and zingy notes that evolves to juicy melon flavours and hints of white peach.
Overall, there’s lots of character for a light wine, with pleasing floral and mineral notes on the finish that make it a real delight to drink.
- Buy from Wine Utopia £12.99