Yesterday saw wine writers, trade and Blackbook Winery supporters gather under the railway arches near Battersea Park for the much-anticipated launch of winemaker Sergio Verrillo's latest wines from the much talked about 2018 English wine vintage. Three new wines were available to taste, alongside the existing range of 2017 wines.
The centrepiece of the trio of new wines is “Tamesis”. It’s a single-varietal Bacchus that was grown at London’s only commercial vineyard Forty Hall, making it the first London-grown, London-made wine since Roman times. The name Temesis is the Roman word for the River Thames and the label, designed by London artist, Matthew R. Frame, was inspired by both the river itself and England’s Roman origins.
Being a champion of minimal intervention winemaking and locality, Sergio had to say:
“At Blackbook we are proud of our London heritage and passionate about the city. We strive to demonstrate that world class wine can be produced in an urban winery and believe that our new Tamesis wine is a perfect example. Forty Hall Vineyard is the only commercial-scale vineyard in London and is run as a social enterprise engaging a committed set of enthusiastic volunteers. It is certified organic, avoiding the use of synthetic fungicides, herbicides or fertilisers to encourage sustainability, biodiversity and natural balance. I am a winemaker who likes to follow a traditional winemaking approach with low sulphur wines and indigenous ferments, seeking to preserve the varietal characters in its wines.”
Joining the Tamesis was another new wine entitled “The Mix Up”, a Bacchus-Ortega blend and the new vintage of the “I’d Rather Be A Rebel” Rosé 2018, made from 100% Pinot Noir. It was a pleasure to catch up with Sergio and his partner Lynsey at the winery and to hear such intricate insights into their distinctive and expressive wines. Sergio has managed to extract character that I’ve never had in a Bacchus before; notes of sage and fennel join the signature aromatic and tropical fruit notes. Meanwhile, the new 2018 Rosé feels a bold step up from the previous vintage, with its deeper colours and savoury and light tannin textures. Indeed, the one note I kept returning to when describing the Blackbook wines was texture.
Tasting notes follow below of the new wines and the "GMF" Seyval Blanc.
2018 Bacchus “Tamesis”
REGION: London, GRAPES: Bacchus, Price: £19
The first London grown & made English wine since Roman times! The Bacchus was whole bunch pressed with indigenous ferment in 60% oak / 40% stainless steel.
It's got a very aromatic nose, and is quite unique with pungent tropical fruit, citrus zest and grassy, herbaceous notes.
Brilliantly textural palate, quite grippy with a most distinctive fennel and sage herbaceous note.
2018 Rosé “I’d Rather Be a Rebel”
REGION: London, GRAPES: Bacchus, Price: £17.50
Made with Pinot Noir from Crouch Valley Vineyard in Essex that was whole bunch pressed before transfer to old Burgundy barrels, indigenous ferment.
Deeper coloured than the 2017, with red cherry and wild cherry aromas as well as a hint of savoury spice.
A grown-up palate, again with more depth than the previous vintage. Lots of ripe red berry flavours, paired with interesting savoury notes and light tannin texture.
2018 Blend “The Mix-Up”
REGION: Kent, GRAPES: Bacchus & Ortega, Price: £18.50
A curious blend of 50/50 Bacchus and Ortega. The Bacchus was whole bunch pressed into stainless steel with indigenous ferment, while the Ortega destemmed and fermented on skins for 25 days before being pressed into Burgundy barrels.
Texturally, this was the most outstanding and unique of the wines, with an almost waxy, viscous grip. Green fruit and grassy notes, quite funky, but ultimately it felt a little muted right now due to recent bottling. One to revisit in a few months.
2017 Seyval Blanc “GMF”
REGION: Oxfordshire, GRAPES: Seyval Blanc, Price: £23.50
Released last year, this is a traditional method sparkling wine with a difference. Made from Berkshire-grown Seyval Blanc which was half fermented in stainless steel and half in old Burgundy barrels. Uniquely released undisgorged.
Cloudy appearance due to the presence of lees, the nose is highly aromatic with notes of orchard fruit, white peach, citrus peel and wet stone.
The palate is a textural adventure, with bright green fruit and citrus up front, and a uniquely mouth-coating waxiness. Really refreshing and enjoyable.