The Great British Wine Round-up February 2020

It’s been a relatively quiet start of the year, with myself adjusting to parenthood, and the English wine industry recovering from a lively, busy Christmas and New Year. Therefore this month’s round-up is a chance for me to take a closer look at some of the more unusual and lesser known wines to cross my path in recent months, as well as a couple of new releases from more household names.

As such, we have another handful of tasty 2018 vintage still wines. To get things a little more romantic in preparation for Valentine’s Day, I’ve tasted a fab new Pinot Noir rosé from Winbirri (£14.50). Its concentrated red berry flavours pull no punches and made it the stand out wine of the month for me. Continuing the pink theme, I’ve also put together a feature looking at which English Sparkling rosé to enjoy this Valentine’s.

The purity and precision of Danebury’s newly released Madeleine Angevine 2018 again demonstrated the food-friendly nature and overall potential of this little talked about grape. Next up, and keeping things Madeleine-related, is Dalwood’s latest 2018 white (£15.00) which blends the aforementioned ‘Mad Ange’ with Solaris and Seyval Blanc. It’s a hugely successful blend, and another of this month’s highlights.

On the sparkling side, Woodchester Valley Cotswold Classic, a fresh but well-balanced blend of Seyval and Pinot Blanc, proved to be a nice little discovery. It’s sub-£20 price point, and generous fruit richness, made it a great entry-level sparkling find. Finally, one of the highlights from this month’s Vineyards of Hampshire annual Trade Tasting was Raimes Blanc de Noirs 2016 (£35.00). This wine has long been a GBW favourite, ever since the first vintage (2013) was released, and this latest edition continues the trend, with its ripe red berry flavours and suggestions of ginger spice.

Winbirri Pinot Noir Rosé 2018

Grapes: Pinot Noir
Region: Norfolk

Winbirri has been on somewhat of a roll for the last six months, having impressed me recently with the 2018 Bacchus and Solaris, and the hugely welcoming Classic 2014. This Pinot Noir Rosé 2018 follows in the same footsteps.

It begins with an immediate Pinot-laced nose of cherry blossom, wild raspberry and deeper ripe cherry aromas. Those red fruit flavours are immediately apparent on the palate too, with tangy cranberry and pink grapefruit notes soon softening to a deep, mature summer red berry-led mid-taste.

This is a textbook example of what I love about great English rosé: delicious, pure, concentrated red berry flavours paired with unquestionable English acidity. This rosé doesn’t just hold back!

Danebury Madeleine Angevine 2018

Grapes: Madeleine Angevine
Region: Hampshire

Danebury Vineyards, established in 1988, have long been champions of Madeleine Angevine. This latest vintage makes the most of 2018’s exceptional ripening reason, resulting in a brilliant, crisp wine with all the delicate, feminine charms this grape brings. There are fresh, citrus peel aromas, tingling minerality and floral notes.

On the delicious palate there’s more of the same, beginning with crisp green apple, pear and lemon freshness. The ripe vintage shows through in the form of fleshy white peach, while light salinity and floral hints shine through on the finish.

I tasted this with a selection of homemade nigiri sushi, and the crispness and purity of the wine were perfect with the freshness of the seafood.

Dalwood Madeleine Angevine, Solaris, Seyval Blanc 2018

Grapes: Madeleine Angevine, Solaris & Seyval Blanc
Region: Devon

Devon’s Dalwood vineyard is something of a unique proposition. A collective of retired villagers decided to live the dream by planting a small but perfectly formed vineyard. They have already won a handful of awards, and this 2018 still white blend is a real standout.

The nose is bright, refreshing, and perhaps even a little Mediterranean, with its aromas of citrus peel, fleshy peach and nectarine. There are definite tropical and herbaceous hues, as well as a distinctive minerality.

The palate absolutely delivers what that nose promised. There’s tangy, crunchy apple and tingling citrus notes upfront, supported by a generous, gratifying fusion of mango, peach and grapefruit.

Raimes Blanc de Noirs 2016

Grapes: Pinot Meunier & Pinot Noir
Region: Hampshire

As the fifth generation of their family to farm their land in Alresford, Augusta and Robert Raimes have just released the fourth vintage of their incredibly well-received Blanc de Noirs.

This is a blend of 52% Pinot Meunier and 48% Pinot Noir, and those red berry characteristics shout through in an evocative nose of redcurrant, cherry and spiced ginger biscuit.

The palate is broad, with lovely concentrated fruit flavours of red apple, raspberry and redcurrant. There’s a very welcoming depth to the flavour profile, lifted by crisp pink grapefruit freshness and just a hint of spice on the finish.

Langham Culver Classic Cuvée NV

Grapes: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier & Chardonnay
Region: Dorset

I’ve just got back from a short visit to Dorset, and one of the vineyards I stopped at was Langham in Dorchester. Much has changed since my last visit in 2016, with the recently promoted head winemaker, Tommy Grimshaw, taking over and becoming one of the youngest in the country. A minimal intervention approach has resulted in a range of incredibly distinctive sparkling wines.

This is the red grape dominant version of their young Classic Cuvée, a blend of 66% Pinot Noir, 24% Pinot Meunier and 10% Chardonnay from 2017 with 6% reserve wine. I found the nose of red apple, peach skin and citrus peels incredibly fresh and appealing.

But it was the palate that really stood out with its fusion of crunchy orchard fruit, citrus peel and plush, welcoming stone fruit. The low dosage of 2.5/g allows the fruit purity to speak, and the young bubbles formed a surprisingly soft, textured mousse. The finish of mineral and toasted nuts elevates this stunning entry level sparkler even further.

Woodchester Valley Cotswold Classic

Grapes: Seyval Blanc & Pinot Blanc
Region: Gloucestershire

Woodchester Valley’s still wines really grabbed my attention last year but I had a chance to sample their sparkling wine a couple of months back with winemaker, Jeremy Mount, at the winery in Stroud in the Cotswolds. This is their entry-level offering and is a blend of 75% Seyval Blanc and 25% Pinot Blanc made in the traditional method.

Aromatically, this wine is pretty and fruit-forward. It begins with red apple and floral notes, with hints of elderflower and citrus peel, as well as a suggestion of tropical fruit.

Jeremy has aced the balance of this wine; the Seyval brings a linear, tangy citrus and green apple hit, while the Pinot Blanc appears to deliver a little more fruit opulence and a good bit of body and presence.

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