While wine releases have been a little quiet again this month, the industry has been bustling. Harvest 2019 is already underway, predominantly of the early ripening varieties such as Solaris and Rondo. In fact, just over a week ago, I had my first taste of 2019 juice during a visit to Denbies Wine Estate (more on their latest developments, including their fantastic new Vineyard Hotel, to come soon). Their first harvest of the year was the Solaris which already exhibits exotic concentrated fruit flavours and high sugars, prompting a potential alcohol level of 12.5%. The weather in the last week has been a concern though; the risk of damage to fruit and possible disease in the vineyards is high, so fingers crossed that we are blessed with some drier weather in the coming month.
September also saw the annual Wine GB Trade Tasting event which provided an excellent opportunity to catch up with winemakers pre-harvest, and to taste a vast selection of their latest and greatest efforts. The event saw a great turnout, and a huge, ever-growing optimism for English wine, especially the still wines! I tried some real gems at the tasting, quite a few of which were pre-release samples of 2018 still wines from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Needless to say, these wines will grace these pages in due course.
All of the wines in this month’s round-up were at the Wine GB event, and again, in my opinion, demonstrate the diversity of English wine right now. I was hugely impressed with Woodchester Valley’s still wines, of which I have included a complementary duo of Sauvignon Blanc 2018 (£15.95) and the stunning Orpheus Bacchus 2018 (£14.95). Flint Vineyard’s Charmat Rosé 2018 (£21.99) continues to turn heads; it’s colour characteristics and playful fruit definitely help it to stand out. Another real standout is Oxney Organic Estate’s Classic Cuvée 2016 (£35.00) – it’s a real wine lover’s wine with its golden tones, biscuit and spice complexity and supporting fruit. We’ve also got the new vintage of Greyfriars Classic Cuvée 2014, which at £23.00 demonstrates fantastic value, and it delivers a lot of wine for a modest price. Finally, Jenkyn Place is poised to release its first Blanc de Blancs later this week, and we are lucky enough to have a preview of this promising, youthful release.
September in Pictures
Wine of the Month
Woodchester Valley Orpheus Bacchus 2018
REGION: Gloucestershire GRAPES: Bacchus
It’s no secret that I’m (just a bit of) a Bacchus champion. England’s adopted still white grape variety has its critics, but this wine, in my opinion, absolutely justifies why Bacchus is the fourth most planted grape variety in England.
Orpheus is Woodchester’s flagship Bacchus made from the best parcels of fruit; the 2018 vintage was made from the oldest vines on the original Amberley site.
If the Woodchester Sauvignon Blanc is crisp and aromatic, this Bacchus is like a supercharged version of that wine. The nose is packed full of lime zest, nettle, pungent tropical fruits and elegant minerality.
It’s absolutely delicious too, combining that classic grassy, elderflower Bacchus character with plentiful tropical fruit richness thanks to the fantastic 2018 vintage fruit. The finish is where this wine really sings though, with its Pouilly-Fumé-esque smoky minerality that lingers pleasingly and effortlessly.
- Buy from Woodchester Valley £14.95
OTHER NEW RELEASES
Woodchester Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2018
REGION: Gloucestershire GRAPES: Sauvignon Blanc
It was high time that I finally got around to featuring something from Woodchester Valley, as winemaker Jeremy Mount has been doing some particularly fine work over the last couple of years. Jeremy joined as winemaker three years ago, though the first vines were planted by Woodchurch in Amberley in 2007, and there were further plantings between 2011 and 2013.
English examples of Sauvignon Blanc are few and far between but the variety has undoubtedly started to grab attention after the excellent 2018 vintage. This wine demonstrates classic varietal typicity with aromas of cut grass, gooseberry and light tropical fruit hints.
To taste, the Woodchester Sauvignon continues to appeal with its mixture of crisp green fruit and tangy, prickly tropical fruits. There’s a nice bit of texture, the acidity is under control and not overwhelming, and there’s not a hint of that vegetal note that can overwhelm English Sauvignon. This is really very well made.
- Buy from Woodchester Valley £15.95
Oxney Organic Classic 2016
REGION: Sussex GRAPES: Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir & Chardonnay
This is the latest vintage of Oxney’s signature Organic Classic and is a blend of 47% Pinot Meunier, 45% Pinot Noir and 8% Chardonnay. The wine was released with 24 months on lees and a low dosage of 5g/l.
There’s a lovely colour on this red fruit dominant Classic blend which also manifests in a deliciously nuanced and complex wine.
The nose on this young, Organic Classic is outstanding, and packed full of richness and complexity. There are aromas of black tea, ripe peach, fennel and light toasted spice notes.
The taste is complex and nuanced too, surprisingly developed for such a young wine. With its crisp acidity and vibrant citrus richness, this wine has lots of tertiary nuances, ripe stone fruit, red apple and hints of cranberry on the mid-taste with a delicious nutty, baked pastry complexity.
This was so distinctive and a real wine lover’s wine, and I can’t help but feel that its unique savoury qualities are thanks to the high proportion of Pinot Meunier that feature in the blend.
Greyfriars Classic Cuvée 2014
REGION: Surrey GRAPES: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
For a long time, this Classic Cuvée from Greyfriars has punched well above its price point of £23 so we were really looking forward to tasting the newly released 2014 vintage, and it didn’t disappoint!
It’s a blend of 56% Chardonnay, 22% Pinot Noir and 22% Pinot Meunier and was released with the now familiar low dosage of Greyfriars at 4g/l.
The nose is hugely welcoming, a fusion of ripe orchard fruit pear, white peach and crisp red apple, complemented by light almond pastry notes and a hint of spice.
Then there is a delicious palate that fuses bright, energetic fruit with beautiful roundness that eases into riper stone fruit and baked apple flavours. Incredibly gratifying to drink.
- Buy from Greyfriars Vineyard £23.00
Jenkyn Place Blanc de Blancs 2015
REGION: Hampshire GRAPES: Chardonnay
A super lively wine that jumped out of the bottle and into the glass as soon as the cork was popped, this 100% Chardonnay English sparkling comes courtesy of Hampshire’s Jenkyn Place and winemaker Dermot Sugrue.
The nose is intense and commanding; there are lots of green apples, lemon pie with light caramelised fruit notes and hints of sweet pastry.
The palate immediately commands attention with bold, linear acidity and tangy green fruit flavours. It’s an intense experience, demanding attention but then wooing with its baked apple pudding richness.
Ultimately, this wine feels a little tightly wound right now but there’s so much potential here. It’s definitely one to watch, as Dermot’s Blanc de Blancs wines do age so very well.
Flint Vineyard Charmat Rosé 2018
REGION: Norfolk GRAPES: Solaris, Reichenstiner, Cabernet Cortis & Rondo
This is the second vintage of Charmat Rosé 2018, made in the tank-fermentation method that is famously utilised in the production of Prosecco. The 2018 vintage is made from a blend of Solaris, Reichensteiner, Cabernet Cortis and Rondo.
It’s got a striking vibrant pink colour, with an unusual nose of pink grapefruit, raspberry and rhubarb, with hints of wild herbs.
To taste, the Flint Charmat has a vibrant burst of juicy, tangy red berries and citrus energy.
Overall, this is a very easy-drinking rosé expression with lots of juicy red fruit flavours and gentle textures that lift it above the expectation of a Charmat method wine.
- Buy from Flint Vineyard £21.99
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This month, Matt looks at a selection of rosé wines, both still and sparkling, from England and Wales.
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This month's round-up features a trio of fresh still wines, as well as three distinctively different sparkling wines.