Phew! It’s been a rather busy couple of weeks here at Great British Wine during these troubling, unusual times. With my wife and I working full-time at home and managing parenting duties, while trying to keep GBW active, it has been quite a balancing act. However, English wine has, as always, been an enormous inspiration in these challenging times, and, as such, I’ve used this month’s round-up to highlight and revisit a few brilliant wines that have crossed my path in the last few months.
Before I get on to the wines this month, I wanted to make a special mention to #theBIGenglishwinegoodfriday social media movement this coming Good Friday. We’ve jumped on board and are helping to support this initiative thought up by Jacob Leadley of Black Chalk. Essentially, the idea is to buy, drink and talk about English wine on the 10th April – you can read more about this movement here. All of the wines featured in this month’s round-up can be ordered at the links given for delivery in time for Good Friday.
Now, onto this month’s wines. On the sparkling side, I’ve focussed on the rich and luxurious. Our wine of the month is Gusbourne’s fantastic new Blanc de Noirs 2016 (£59 – direct) which combines signature precision with deep, brooding depths. Then there’s Furleigh Estate’s ‘From the Oenothèque 10’ (£59.99 – direct) which demonstrates stunning evolution, and celebrates more than a decade of winemaking from the Dorset winery. Both of these delicious sparkling wines are bold enough to stand up to Easter food pairings. I’ve also revisited a duo of delicious multi-vintage classic sparkling blends: the latest Nyetimber Classic Cuvée (£25.99 – Majestic Wine) and Exton Park’s Brut Reserve (£27.95 – Grape Britannia).
On the still side, I’ve embraced the springtime freshness of Easter by exploring a pair of zesty and fragrant English white blends, once a category full of generic white wines. The Lyme Bay Shoreline 2018 (£14.99 – direct) and Hush Heath Skye’s Blend (£16.49 – Grape Britannia) both demonstrate the 2018 vintage’s vibrant, rich fruit flavours and that signature English freshness. Finally, Easter wouldn’t be Easter without something a little sweet, so I’ve revisited Hattingley Valley’s superb Entice 2018 Dessert Wine (£22.50 – direct).
Gusbourne Blanc de Noirs 2016
• WINE OF THE MONTH •
Grapes: Pinot Noir
It’s been a long time coming, but the much talked about Gusbourne Blanc de Noirs is finally here, and it was worth the wait! Made from 100% Pinot Noir, this outstanding new wine is not only one of the best wines from Gusbourne to date; it’s one sleek looking bottle.
The first thing you’ll notice is the bronzed, brooding colour of the wine, echoed by its rich, sumptuous nose of ripe red berries, baked pastry, sherbert lemon and just a hint of spice.
This wine shows a superb sense of structure, with that ever-present poise and precision that we’ve come to expect from Gusbourne. But it’s the mature red fruit flavours of cherry and raspberry, a fusion of spiced pastry and toasted nuts and the elegant minerality that really leave a long-lasting impression.
Furleigh ‘From the Oenothèque 10’
Grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
Everything about this wine evinces opulence, and appropriately so, being one of a pair of wines released to celebrate over a decade of wines from Furleigh Estate in Dorset. It’s a blend of 60% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir and 5% Pinot Meunier, and has spent an extensive time ageing on lees.
The nose on this wine is rather special, combining candied citrus peel, mature stone fruit and baked apples, along with marzipan and honey pastry complexity.
The palate on this ten-year-old Furleigh is in a fantastic place right now. The bright, zippy acidity and citrus notes of the 2010 vintage are still alive and dancing, complemented by honeyed peach and baked fruit pudding richness. Everything just sits so well here, and all elements come into perfect harmony, resulting in a richly structured wine that has incredible food pairing potential. This is one to serve at the Easter dining table!
Lyme Bay Shoreline 2018
Grapes: Bacchus, Seyval Blanc & Reichensteiner
This is a rather tasty white grape blend of Bacchus, Seyval Blanc and Reichensteiner from Devon’s Lyme Bay Winery.
On the nose, there is grapefruit peel, lime zest, crunchy green fruit and English hedgerow. It’s super refreshing and full of springtime appeal.
To taste, there’s a big wave of zingy citrus up front, combined with tangy green apple and gooseberry. It’s a really zesty fruit fusion, but there’s a fuller peach and pear mid-taste.
Balfour Hush Heath Skye’s Blend 2018
Grapes: Bacchus, Chardonnay & Pinot Blanc
Keeping things blended, this Skye’s Blend 2018 from Hush Heath is a resoundingly successful combination of 55% Bacchus, 25% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Blanc.
On the nose, there’s that signature English White freshness of citrus peel and crisp green fruits, with floral hints and mineral tones.
This is a superbly structured blend which makes an impression initially with a refreshing, bright citrus punch. It’s packed with grapefruit, lime zest and tangy green apple flavours up front, followed by nettle and pear notes, and a nice suggestion of richness and weight. The acidity is bright and commanding on this, but the immense length is where the wine really shines. It was fabulous paired with Tuna Ceviche.
Nyetimber Classic Cuvée MV
Grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
A new blend of Nyetimber Classic Cuvée usually comes around in the early part of the year. This latest release, based on the 2015 vintage (80%, with ’14, ’13, ’11 and ’09 reserve wines), continues the form and consistency that one expects from the label now. It’s a blend of 62% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and 8% Pinot Meunier.
Those golden hues attract your attention, while the familiar nose of citrus peels, white peach and baked apples, with hints of caramelized pastry and brioche, are immensely satisfying.
To taste, Cherie Spriggs and Brad Greatrix have once again found that harmony, balancing the zingy freshness and crisp orchard fruit flavours with hints of summer berries and crisp pastry notes. Then there’s honey roasted cashew notes on the finish – oh yes! Always a flag-bearer for quality, the Nyetimber Classic continues to justify the estate’s decision to switch to multi-vintage several years ago.
Exton Park Brut Reserve NV
Grapes: Chardonnay & Pinot Noir
Also stalwarts of the non-vintage approach, Hampshire’s Exton Park have produced another long-standing favourite amongst the Great British Wine team. This is a blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% of Chardonnay, and whilst the exact vintage blend remains a secret, it’s an immensely satisfying sparkling wine.
The nose is packed full of fresh citrus and crunchy orchard fruit aromas, while that pleasing sense of autolytic richness and toasted brioche elevates it further.
Where Exton’s Brut Reserve truly shines is the palate. Winemaker Corinne Seely’s distinctive style of precision and clarity manifests itself in a bright wine packed full of crisp orchard fruit, tingling mineral textures and delicate pastry complexities.
Hattingley Entice Dessert Wine 2018
Fancy something a little sweeter for Easter without reaching for the chocolate? Hattingley’s Entice is the perfect solution. It’s a Bacchus, but not as you know it. The grapes were frozen to -10°C before being pressed for 72 hours.
The result is the nectar of the gods, appropriate for a wine made from Bacchus, named after the god of wine. Expect concentrated tropical fruit aromas of mango, peach and pineapple, combined with lime and gooseberry freshness.
The taste delivers exactly what the nose promised: an indulgent fusion of ripe tropical fruits and honeyed peach, while all that sweet richness is kept under control by fresh, zesty acidity.