It's always exciting to attend a wine tasting when you know that you are going to be treated to something that is unfamiliar and outside of your comfort zone. Managing Director and winemaker Adrian Pike of Westwell Wines in Kent is known for his unconventional, innovative approach to winemaking, such as the use of skin contact and Amphora fermentation, as well as minimal intervention winemaking practices.
Adrian cut his English wine teeth working with Will Davenport, after his eureka moment of tasting the Davenport Horsmonden Dry White, before taking over at Westwell in 2017. He describes Westwell as the winemaker's dream vineyard. Distinctively, the vineyard has a significant amount of land planted with Ortega vines; four out of the nine total acres under vine. As Adrian's English wine grape of choice, this has set the stage for much Ortega-based innovation and experimentation.
Yesterday saw Westwell 'takeover' trendy wine bar Sager + Wilde in Hackney for the launch of their new wines, including a vast array of Ortega-based covering multitude styles and textures, as well as two very vibrant Pinot-based offerings, and a striking Pet Nat. I had a chance to sit down with Adrian and taste through the wines, which were a real sensory adventure.
My tasting notes follow below.
Westwell Pelegrim NV
GRAPES: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier & Chardonnay, Price: £27.50
This had been destined to become a 'Prosecco-like' entry level ESW with 20g/l dosage, before Adrian stepped in and rescued it. The eventual wine is a Pinot-dominant NV blend with 20% reserve wines and dosage of 9g/l.
The Pelegrim has an excellent nose, with an immediate red berry character, savoury complexity and red apple notes.
I loved the texture and structure on this wine; it's got the classic English crispness, paired with a lovely depth of red apple, berry fruit and almond cream softness.
Westwell Petulant Nature 2018
GRAPES: Ortega, Price: £22.00
The trend for English 'Pet Nat' appears to be growing, and this young release from Westwell is a great example. It's made from the vineyard's signature Ortega grapes that were partially fermented in stainless steel with indigenous yeasts.
The aptly named Petulant Nature opens with a fresh nose of orchard fruit, citrus zest and melon, with light floral aromas.
Super refreshing palate with zingy intensity up front and soft, ripe red apple and pear flavours throughout. Great textures, and so very drinkable.
Westwell Special Cuvée 2014
GRAPES: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier, Price: £32.50
A Chardonnay-dominated blend to contrast to the Pelegrim NV, the Cuvée has more of the classic Champagne-like autolytic richness to partner a thirst quenching acidity.
The nose feels nicely developed, with rich aromas of baked apple and nutty pastry notes.
The Cuvée has a punchy palate up front with green apple and citrus zing, which softens to riper notes of peach and honeyed stone fruit.
Westwell Ortega Amphora 2017
GRAPES: Ortega, Price: £19.50
One of three Ortega's tasted, this was particularly unique as it had been fermented on skins, before being aged in a handmade Amphora (a large terracotta container).
It's hugely charismatic, and quite unlike any other English wine I have tried before, with aromas of fennel, dried citrus peels and pear.
The journey continues on the palate, combing interesting herbaceous and anise notes with pithy citrus notes, viscosity and almost chewy, chalky textures.
Fascinating, one to return to for sure.
Westwell Pink 2018
GRAPES: Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier Price: £19.50
By this point in the tasting, I realised that if Westwell were to make a Rosé, it was going to be distinctive. And distinctive this Pinot Noir / Meunier blend is, having been macerated on skins for a prolonged 24 hour period, helping to give the wine a very vibrant hue.
It may be intensely pink, but the wine has a grown-up character. The nose is full of ripe summer red berries, supported by light tomato leaf and savoury notes.
The palate was again beautifully textural, with an appealing fusion of crisp acidity, ripe strawberry and raspberry flavours, and that signature Westwell viscosity, grip and subtle tannin.
Westwell Field Blend 2018
GRAPES: Pinot Noir & Chardonnay, Price: £19.50
The tasting concluded on perhaps the most distinctive wine. The Field Blend is made from two rows of Pinot Noir and one row of Chardonnay that co-habited the same space in the vineyard.
The grapes were co-fermented, and the resulting juice is a flirtatious and inviting glass of ruby red wine.
It's juicy and grippy to taste, tempting with it's concentrated wild strawberry and cherry flavours while offering complexity with its savoury, balsamic and dried rosemary notes.
I'll be having a more detailed look at this unique wine at the end of the month.