Situated near Stockbridge in Hampshire, Danebury Vineyards is a privately owned estate rooted in horseracing history. Unlike many other English Wine producers, they have remained focussed on the more traditional white grape varieties that had been popular in England in the late 80’s and early 90’s. The estate is owned by an Austrian family with a passion for clean, aromatic European style white wines.
The first vines were planted in 1988 and the vineyards now cover a total of seven acres. Danebury exclusively grow white grapes for both still and sparkling wine production, split between approximately one third each of high yielding Auxerrois Blanc, Madeleine Angevine and the aromatic Schönburger. There is also a small planting of Pinot Gris, which ultimately goes into the vineyard’s still white blend known as Danebury Reserve. Bacchus had been grown at some point historically, but this has since been grubbed up and replanted with additional Schönburger vines. The vineyard is situated on a gentle south-facing slope with a very thin grass covered topsoil over chalk and flint. Danebury operate true to Organic principles, so no insecticides or pesticides are used and fungicides are used sparingly.
Madeleine Angevine is perhaps the wine that the vineyard is most famous for, and accounts for approximately 40% of the bottles produced annually. This early ripening varietal has a complex heritage to match its lengthy full name of Madeleine x Angevine 7672. The grape produces an fresh aromatic fruit-focussed wine that Danebury liken to an Alsatian Pinot Blanc. Detailed tasting notes follow below of all the wines, but this wine really stood out and prompted me to select Madeleine Angevine as our next grape varietal to base a tasting focus article on. Watch out for this in the coming month or so!
Horseracing is clearly of big significance to Danebury. During my tour I learnt that in the 19th Century the estate was home to a racehorse paddock and training ground. During the planting of the vines it wasn’t unheard of that an old horseshoe or two was dug up! This heritage is embellished on each still wine bottle; a jockey on horseback is present in gold foil, contrasting the royal blue label. And then there is the Estate's sparkling wine, aplty named ‘Cossack’ after the winner of the 1847 Epsom Derby – a racehorse that was trained locally on this very site. A privately owned horse stable still resides on the Estate today, now home to a new horse appropriately called Sparkling Cossack!
Interaction with the local community has also played a huge part in Danbury's history. Come October, the vineyards are the hive of activity as grape harvest begins, where the grapes is picked entirely by volunteers, many of whom have been doing so for many years. After a pre-pick by vineyard manager Geoff to remove any sub standard grapes, the harvest usually takes place over a couple of days and is attended by a large group of locals - with the promise of the reward of a hearty cooked meal, live band and of course generous servings of homegrown Danebury wine. You can read more about this grape harvest in my Getting Hands On With English Wine Harvest 2016 article.
Danebury is one of those wonderfully tranquil vineyards to have a calming walk around, though unfortunately not open to the public. There is no on site winery, however the wines are all produced by highly experienced English winemaker Vince Gower, who is based at Stanlake Park in Berkshire. Whilst things are done a little differently at Danebury, the combined efforts of the vineyard estate team of Geoff and Patrick, the dedicated picking team, and Vince's experience result in a range of precise and distinctive wines.
It's worth noting that the 2016 vintage, of which I participated in a thoroughly rewarding harvest in October, is being tipped as the best in recent years despite a lower than average yield. With near perfect sugar and acidity levels, Danebury's vintage 2016 wines are certainly going to be worth waiting for!
Which appropriately brings us to the tasting of the current crop of wines, all of which can be ordered directly from Danebury directly.
- 7 Acres
Grapes: Schönburger, Madeline Angevine, Auxerrois Blanc, Pinot Gris RRP: £12.99
This delightful wine, lovingly described by Danebury as “a taste of Hampshire in a glass” brings together everything that Danebury vineyard is about; blending all four grape varieties of Schönburger, Madeline Angevine, Auxerrois Blanc and Pinot Gris.
On the nose this wine has a clean profile; slightly austere, with light hints of citrus, slight peach notes and white flowers.
To taste, this is the punchiest of the Danebury range with good acidity and green citrus flavours. A fruity, but firmly dry palate awaits – with the vineyard’s trademark perfumed floral notes leading to a mineral finish.
MADELEINE ANGEVINE 2013
Grapes: Madeleine Angevine RRP: £11.99
Coming from a grape with a wonderfully complex background, Danebury’s Madeleine Angevine is suitably distinctive.
Pale yellow with slightly green hues, this still white wine has a lively invigorating nose of white peach, melon and floral notes.
On the palate, it opens with a strikingly clean character. The mid-taste is where the fruit character opens up, with ripe fleshy peach complimented by a grapefruit tang.
That grapefruit character forms the base of a lengthy aftertaste, seasoned with floral notes and greener leafy hints.
Grapes: Schönburger RRP: £11.99
It might not be the most well-known grape variety, but Schönburger is an early ripening German white grape variety that is believed to be a cross of Pinot Noir and (Chasselas X Muscat Hamburg). The grapes can develop distinctive vibrant pink skins at full ripeness.
This wine has a wonderful aromatic nose, with aromas of toasted lime zest, pineapple and pear with a delicate floral perfume.
At just 10.5% alcohol, the wine has a similarly delicate flavour profile, starting with green apple and pear with a little citrus bite.
A light tropical fruit character develops, the aromatic character of the nose does not manifest itself so noticeably on the palate. A slight off dry finish makes this a thoroughly enjoyable glass of white wine.
SPARKLING COSSACK 2011
Grapes: Auxxerois Blanc, Rulander RRP: £24.99
One of the more unique English Sparkling wines out there, this is made from non-Champagne varietal grapes in the form of 95% Auxxerois Blanc and 5% Rulander (or as we know it, Pinot Gris).
The wine still follows traditional method techniques, and spends a lengthy 5 years on the lees before disgorging.
In the glass, the Cossack has a pale straw yellow colour, with plentiful streams of persistent bubbles. Its nose is delicate, with clean green apple and pear notes combined with light garden flower aromas.
The flavour profile continues in that clean and light fashion; a crisp fresh bite of lemon and with the tang of greengage. Light pear flavours with a floral and lemon zest finish – this is a sparkling wine for those that don’t want it too rich and biscuity.