The success of Hampshire-based sparkling winemakers continues to boom. With producers including Hattingley Valley, Hambledon and Exton Park gaining national and international recognition, rewards and boosting the region’s reputation, there is a growing number of quality names in this exciting region of England. Cottonworth are one of the more recent producers on the scene, and they have planted an impressive 30 acres of vines across three sites over the last 10 years since initial plantings on the Liddell family farm in 2005. Like the aforementioned producers, Cottonworth’s focus is also English Sparkling Wine, so the vine plantings are the usual varieties of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir (and Precoce) and Pinot Meunier. To paint a bigger picture, Cottonworth Farm is a long established organic arable farming operation and is an estate spanning over 1,000 Acres and four generations of the Liddell family.
We begin our visit to Cottonworth by sitting down with owner Hugh Liddell and his wife Rosie to chat over one of their famous winemaker's lunches. A delicious spread of cold meats, cheese, bread and salad is accompanied by generous pourings of Cottonworths’s fresh and delicious Classic Cuvée and Rosé Sparkling in the comfy surroundings of a tastefully converted barn. We learn about Hugh’s winemaking journey. Formerly producing wine in Burgundy in the early 2000’s, here he learnt the importance of the synergy between man and vine. Now back in England, it is easy to see Hugh’s passion for winemaking. He explains to us how England’s ever unrealiable weather brings new challenges each year; this is what makes producing top notch English Sparkling all the more a rewarding experience. Whilst initial vintages of Cottonworth wines were in fact produced on site, the winemaking is now handled in partnership with Emma Rice and her team at Hattingley Valley. This is once again a great demonstration of the English Wine industry's resourcefulness and talent sharing approach.
After a thoroughly enjoyable lunch we walk around to one of the plots of vines known as ‘The Vine Maze’. Here a uniquely planted loop of five rows of vines vines sits around a central open space. This space is designed with events, weddings and other functions in mind. We will have the chance to experience this in full effect later in the year when Cottonworth host the Vineyards of Hampshire Festival on Sunday 23rd July, of which tickets are available to buy right now.
Next, we jump in to Hugh’s car for a short journey to one of the larger vineyard plantings and a chance to walk amongst the vines. Row upon of perfectly maintained grape vines span almost as far as the eye can see across the Test valley. The ubiquitous vineyard dog keeps a close watch over the vines, that's when he’s not sniffing out truffles in the nearby wooded area! I was visiting in early September, a magical time to visit an English vineyard as veraison was just starting to set in on the Pinot Noir vines. During this period the grapes go through a complex transformation, resulting in the berries changing colour from green to red/purple. It’s quite a sight to witness the grapes at this stage of development, as it signals the final push the vines have to make prior to harvest in a month or so’s time.
After a thoroughly pleasurable walk taking in the wonderful landscape, we return back to the tasting room, and head down to the vineyard shop to pick up a couple of bottles of lovely wine. Open Thursday to Saturdays, you can drop in for a bottle of Cottonworth’s beautiful bubbly as well as Hugh’s wonderous French projects; a silky smooth and mature French Pinot Noir ‘Pommard Les Combes 2010’ as well as, a personal favourite of mine, the delightful Domaine Liddell Saint Aubin 1er Cru Perriéres 2014. Both of these wines provide a suitably elegant partner to the already excellent Sparkling Rosé and Classic Cuvée from Cottonworth.
The Winemaker's Lunch experience can be booked via the Cottonworth Website at £55.00 for two people.
- 30 Acres
COTTONWORTH CLASSIC CUVÉE
GRAPES: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier RRP: £28.00
A classic trio blend of 60% Chardonnay, 27% Pinot Noir and 13% Pinot Meunier, with a relatively low dosage of 6.5g/l.
A lively fresh and open nose of citrus and green apple kicks things off with subtle delicate notes of sweet pastry and candied fruit.
The Classic Cuvée’s flavour profile is intensely crisp and dry with brisk acidity and slightly green flavours up front.
A smooth refined mousse impresses and provides great texture leading to a clean mineral led finish.
WHERE TO BUY: Cottonworth Website
COTTONWORTH SPARKLING ROSÉ
GRAPES: Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay & Precoce RRP: £29.95
Cottonworth’s Rosé is a blend of the same three grapes as the Cuvée, but with a high proportion of Meunier (43%) and the addition of Pinot Noir Precoce. The wine has had a slightly higher dosage of 9g/l.
This wine opens up with a lovely soft nose with bright red fruit aromas of raspberry, cranberry and red apple.
On the palate, a really crisp bright acidity keeps it all very refreshing up front, before those gentle red berry flavours are helped along by a fine mousse and soft vanilla notes.
A hugely pleasing wine, and my pick of the two current releases from Cottonworth.
WHERE TO BUY: Cottonworth Website