What a fantastic time to celebrate and enjoy English wine! The start of Spring has officially been signalled by the changing of clocks for British Summer Time, bringing longer days, along with hopefully better weather and an end to all that snow! This month I've sought out a selection of brand new English wines, along with fresh new vintages from a few of our regular producers.
March has also seen the results of the second annual Independent English Wine Awards. You can read more about the awards in our article here, however, in short, it was great to see such a diverse array of producers take home medals. In fact, five of the wines in this month's round-up were all awarded.
With Easter this coming weekend, we've got a couple of delicious and textural still wines from Lyme Bay that will lend themselves very well to delicious Easter food pairings. The Pinot Noir 2016, in particular, is a standout. Additionally, I recommend a duo of delicious Bacchus, bursting with springtime freshness to welcome in the spring season in style.
Finally, I end with a trio of sparkling wines from Sussex, one of which is a very exciting upcoming Blanc de Noirs from Albourne Estate. As we start to see a much more regional promotional focus for English wine this year, the Sussex Wineries announced their formation to the wine press on 12th March. The group will provide a more unified tourism-focussed approach to drive more visitors to the region. The eight members that form the group are Albourne Estate, Bluebell Vineyard Estates, Bolney Wine Estate, Oxney Organic, Rathfinny Estate, Ridgeview, Stopham Vineyards and Wiston Estate. I've included the latest offerings from Oxney Organic and Bluebell below. Be sure to keep an eye out as plans are finalised for the inaugural Sussex Wineries Weekend, due to take place between the 15th and 17th June 2018.
The Dynamic Duo from Lyme Bay
Lyme Bay Chardonnay 2016
REGION: Devon GRAPES: Chardonnay
I've been patiently waiting for this new barrel-aged Chardonnay from Lyme Bay. Unlike the 2015 vintage (which was blended with 14% Bacchus), the ’16 is 100% Chardonnay that has been meticulously selected to ensure only the best, ripest fruit is used, sourced from Danbury Wine Estate in Essex.
The wine opens up with a distinctive and most delicious nose. Lots of zesty fruits, lemon and even tangerine peel, with beautifully perfumed vanilla oak.
The ripeness of the fruit really shows through, as the palate, while superbly crisp and fresh, takes you on a journey from crisp, green orchard fruit through to riper, fleshy peach.
The wine spent 11 months in oak barrels, but this does not dominate, and instead introduces soft toasty textures as well as hints of spice. An excellent food pairing wine and one that will improve with more time in the bottle.
- Buy from Lyme Bay £21.99
Lyme Bay Pinot Noir 2016
REGION: Devon GRAPES: Pinot Noir
Top-notch English red wines are few and far between, so it comes with great excitement that the very first red wine from Lyme Bay is already one of my very best English wine discoveries of the last year.
The first signs of beauty are the colour; deep ruby red, suggesting superb ripeness with none of the thinness often associated with English Pinot Noir.
And then the nose; quite Burgundian initially, with ripe cherry, coffee and earthy notes and polished, vanilla oak. Oh yes!
The palate is where this wine really delivers though. Beautiful, effortless, fleshy red fruit flavours of wild strawberry and red cherry combine with feminine, floral charm. The mid-taste is deeper, with flavours of black fruit before a warming hug of smoked, spiced oak and supple tannin grabs hold and just doesn’t want to let go.
A simply fantastic Pinot Noir that would be delicious when served with a delicately cooked young lamb dish on Easter Sunday. A must-try!
New Producer Discoveries
Astley Vineyard Bacchus 2016
REGION: Worcestershire GRAPES: Bacchus
I've had my eye on Astley Vineyard since last year's rebrand, which saw their impressive range of wines get a new look with modern, elegant labels.
Clean, precise aromas of green apple, light lime zest with grassy and floral tones.
Zingy lime and pink grapefruit flavours up front, with lots of crunchy green apple flavours.
The finish is floral and mineral, with a light peppery note that makes the Astley a very memorable white wine.
I enjoyed this Bacchus earlier in the week with an Indian spiced wild Alaskan salmon dish, which really brought out the gratifying zestiness.
- Buy from Astley Vineyard £16.00
Giffords Hall Bacchus 2016
REGION: Suffolk GRAPES: Bacchus
This delicate, delectable Bacchus entertains with its swift, fresh aromas of fresh lime zest, cut grass and soft elderflower tones.
Superbly well balanced to taste, beginning with a burst of crisp acidity and fresh lemon, leading to crunchy green apple and light tropical flavours.
For a wine that feels quite delicate and subtle overall, what impresses if is the lengthy finish, ending on a zingy lime zest with grassy and mineral notes.
Springtime freshness in a glass!
- Buy from Giffords Hall £14.50
Giffords Hall Rosé 2017
REGION: Suffolk GRAPES: Madeleine Angevine & Rondo
Continuing in the vein of the Giffords Hall Bacchus, this offers subtlety both in its pale salmon colour and its delicately appealing nose.
Aromas of freshly picked strawberries, cherry blossom and a twist of citrus.
The wine is lovely and dry to taste; a brisk, fresh acidity up front bursting with citrus fruit, before a fusion of summer berries.
Strawberry, red cherry and raspberry, leading to white peach and, again, a lengthy tingly citrus finish. Superbly well made, and just in time as the warmer weather draws closer.
- Buy from Giffords Hall £13.99
New Sparkling Wines from Producers We Love
Bluebell Hindleap Rosé 2014
REGION: Sussex GRAPES: Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
Fresh from the lovely people at Bluebell Vineyard is this crisp, delicious new 2014 vintage Rosé. This vintage is made from a red grape-only blend of 53% Pinot Noir and 47% Pinot Meunier.
The relatively large proportion of Meunier in the blend lends this wine a delicate, feminine hue of pale salmon.
Delicious red fruit aromas of wild strawberry and raspberry, with the slightest hint of candyfloss and spice.
This delicate sparkling rosé has a surprisingly deep flavour profile, beginning with tangy cranberry, citrus and raspberry flavours. The flavour evolves with hints of baked red apple and the slightest suggestion of sweet pastry.
Elegant, refined, and with a lengthy finish that will keep you reaching for another pour.
- Buy from Bluebell Vineyard £29.99
Oxney Organic Estate Classic 2015
REGION: Sussex GRAPES: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier & Chardonnay
Coming from one of the country's few Organic producers, the Oxney Classic 2015 is a red grape-biased blend of 51% Pinot Noir, 29% Pinot Meunier and 20% Chardonnay.
Though one of the younger English Sparkling wines on the market at the moment, the Oxney immediately appeals with its welcoming ripe stone fruit and honey aromas.
A fresh, crisp bite and a modest dosage of 5g/L allows the purity of the ripeness and fruit to shine through.
Soft, ripe apricot and again that surprisingly warming honeyed note really comes through on the palate.
Look out for my interview with Oxney founder Kristin Syltevik in the coming couple of weeks.
- Buy from Oxney Estate £35.00
A Look to the Future
Albourne Estate Blanc de Noirs 2013
REGION: Sussex GRAPES: Pinot Noir
A new wine release from Albourne Estate has increasingly become a moment to savour.
At the Sussex Wineries launch at Murmur in Brighton, I had a chance to catch up with Alison Nightingale, along with a sneak preview of this stunning new Blanc de Noirs.
With four years on the lees, this is an intense and developed wine, demonstrating equal parts ripe fruit richness and complex nutty nuances.
A luxurious, soft, creaminess thanks to all of that yeast integration makes this a truly decadent English Sparkling that is due out in the coming months.
Many thanks to Multi-Color, specialist wine & spirit label printers, for this beautiful looking preview of the bottle.
A Brand New Book All About English Wine
A Celebration of English Wine
Book by Liz Sagues
I also met with the incredibly enthusiastic Liz Sagues at the Sussex Wineries launch this month and had a sneak preview of her brand new book 'A Celebration of English Wine'.
This glossy book is bursting with beautiful photography of the marvellous vineyards and wines of England and Wales. The book documents the great rise of English wine, looking at its humble beginnings and the journey to the quality-led commercial proposition it has become.
I'll have a full look at the A Celebration of English Wine next month but wanted to give a heads up as it's just gone on sale this week.
- Buy from Crowood Press £13.59