We occasionally get asked at Grape Britannia whether we find it limiting to stock only English and Welsh wines. Our honest answer is that the lack of regulatory strictures on grapes, winemaking methods and so on, combined with the level of experimentation and innovation, means that the range of types and styles we can offer is amazingly broad – we never feel constrained, and, indeed, every month brings something new. Here we feature four wines that, for one reason or another, are at the cutting edge.
Balfour Hush Heath Estate Leslie’s Reserve Red NV
Grape: Pinot Noir
Sparkling reds are the perfect accompaniment to the Full English Breakfast! And not just that artery-clogger: they also go with charcuterie, mushroom-based dishes, pizzas with meat toppings and lentil salads. This Kentish special is closer to a Lambrusco Rosso in style than an Australian Sparkling Shiraz and is, in our humble view, all the better for that.
It’s unusual as well, for modern English Sparkling Wine, in that it ventures beyond the Brut segment into off-dry. It remains happily balanced, with a mouthwatering acidity and flavours of ripe strawberries, raspberries and cherries – yum, yum, yum!
Bluebell Vineyard Ashdown Estate White 2018
Chasselas is one of Switzerland’s signature grape varieties, but you knew that, of course. Rarely seen outside the cantons of that mountainous nation, it has a reputation for being rather neutral in the wrong terroir and climate – but in Bluebell Vineyard’s bucolic East Sussex vineyards it shines.
On the nose there are stone fruit aromas of peach and nectarine, and floral notes of citrus blossom and honeysuckle. On the palate there is a broad range from English hedgerow through to melon, taking in ripe green apple and greengage on the way.
Albourne Estate Bacchus Frizzante 2018
What is more refreshing than a crisp, dry English Bacchus? A crisp, dry English Bacchus with some fizz to it, that’s what. No methode traditionelle here: those yeasty aromas and flavours would clash – there is simply a gentle carbonation to lift it to another level. There’s only a couple of atmospheres of pressure which the screw-cap is sufficient to contain.
This is a classic, well-made Bacchus – there’s just-flowered elderflower, grapefruit, and not-quite-ripe mango on the nose, with a faintly herbal and lanolin edge. On the palate there are ripe lemon and gooseberry flavours, and that lovely tickle of frizzante that will put an unforced smile on your face.
White Castle Vineyard 1581 Fortified Wine 2015
We can’t call this port but it’s made the same way as a Late Bottled Vintage, in the valleys outside Abergavenny rather than the Douro Valley. From an excellent parcel of lusciously ripe Regent grapes harvested in October 2015, the wine was fortified after partial fermentation and left in barrel for four years before being bottled in December 2019. White Castle Vineyard’s Pinot Noir 2017 was recently featured on the BBC’s Saturday Kitchen, but this fortified wine is another highlight of their range.
This lovely liquid displays powerful blackberry and bramble aromas and flavours, with undercurrents of blackcurrant and sweet spice, and is rich, soft and lingering on the palate. We recommend decanting for at least an hour before sampling to get the best from it.
More from Grape Britannia:
Matt Hodgson of Grape Britannia selects four more from his range of English wines, including an Organic Pinot Noir from Davenport and Saffron Grange Classic Cuvée from Essex.
We caught up with Matt Hodgson, Managing Director of independent English wine retailer Grape Britannia.