I used to find shopping for a Valentine’s Day present for Mrs Grape Britannia an agonising and time-consuming exercise. Perfume? Lingerie?? Difficult, difficult. Then I decided to simplify my life and enhance hers by just presenting a bottle of English Sparkling Wine each year. Given the wonderful range there is these days, it is still a fairly time-consuming exercise to narrow it down to a single bottle, but the decision-making process is oh so much more pleasurable. And I get to share the bottle too, so even better.
Here, I’ve shortlisted four potential Valentine Wines to simplify your present-choosing dilemma. There are two sparkling rosés which both display amazingly intense and moreish fruit flavours, Simpsons Canterbury Rosé 2017 (£29.99) and Charles Palmer’s Rosé Brut 2015 (£31.99). My third suggestion is the nuanced and complex Court Garden Blanc de Noirs 2013 (£27.99), while the final fizz, for those wanting to push the boat out for that special lady or gentleman, is Hattingley’s King’s Cuvée 2013 (£79.99)
Simpsons Canterbury Rosé 2017
Grape: Pinot Noir
When I put my nose in this, my instinctive response was “Wow!”. This is a wine that truly speaks for itself. It has an intensity of both red and black cherries in the aroma (and flavour) that I have rarely experienced before, except in some still Italian red wines.
There are also beautiful undercurrents of more classic English sparkling rosé flavours – strawberry and redcurrant weaving into the fabric of the wine. The style is deliberately refreshing: it has a fine mousse and, with 15 months on lees, a hint of shortbread biscuit but definitively fruit-led.
The grapes are exclusively from the Simpsons estate, located in some of Kent’s optimal vine-growing spots, not far from Canterbury, as the wine’s name would suggest. If you are pairing it with food, then charcuterie or a game bird would be great candidates.
Charles Palmer’s Rosé Brut 2015
Grape: Pinot Noir
Region: East Sussex
Another 100% Pinot Noir-based sparkling rosé, this wine was vinified by multi-award-winning Will Davenport from grapes grown on the Charles Palmer estate just outside the ancient Cinque Port town of Winchelsea.
The Charles Palmer Rosé Brut 2015 is a unique and memorable sparkling wine that has such body and depth of flavour that its deflated version makes a fabulous still wine. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have the freshness and vivacity that good sparkling wines require – it magically balances the heft of the fruit, led by ripe quince and stewed rhubarb, with crisp acidity and a buzzing mouth-feel.
While this can be savoured as an aperitif, it will stand up to robust food flavours. Its finish is long and complex, with different nuances unfurling as it lingers in the mouth.
Court Garden Blanc de Noirs 2013
Grapes: Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
Region: East Sussex
Court Garden is based just a mile or so down the road from the much better known Ridgeview, and clearly benefit from the same terroir as their better-known neighbours. They are also making fabulous wines.
Their 2013 Blanc de Noirs, with 55% Pinot Noir and 45% Pinot Meunier, has 42 months on lees and, with coming up to 3 years in bottle post-disgorgement, is reaching its peak. The lengthy lees ageing has given the wine rich brioche and buttery toast aromas that are complemented by lemongrass, lime and Granny Smith. On the palate, it is surprisingly delicately structured for a Blanc de Noirs with this amount of lees ageing, resulting in a wine of intense flavours but wonderful lightness of being. At this price, it is an absolute steal.
Hattingley Valley King’s Cuvée 2013
Grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir
My final suggestion is Hattingley Valley’s top sparkling wine, King’s Cuvée. With less than 1500 bottles made, this blend contains parcels of some of the best grapes in Hampshire. The base wine was 100% barrel fermented and then aged for eight months in four to five-year-old oak barrels. After rigorous taste tests, only the top seven barrels were selected out of 180 available. Once bottled, the wine spent 30 months on lees before disgorging, with a mere 5g/L dosage added.
Your grateful partner will observe that the wine has an attractive pale golden straw colour with a fine mousse. Citrus and baked apple aromas combine with compelling hints of toast and sweet spices. It has a very smooth and elegant structure on the palate, with lemon, lime and pear and a roundness of texture from the oak, leading to a distinctively fresh, long and complex finish.