If there’s one estate in England that has really helped the wine world to take notice of the quality of still Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Essex, it has to be Danbury Ridge. Those in the know were already aware that Essex was the hotbed of English still wine, with many of the well-established producers buying in ripe and bountiful fruit. But Danbury Ridge have put the county firmly on the wine map in just a few short years. Their pursuit of excellent, meticulous yield management, striking, elegant branding and distinctive bottles makes a big statement, as did the inaugural 2018 wines.
The 2018 vintage was followed up with one of the most challenging of the decade, 2019; however, Danbury Ridge still served up an impeccable Estate Pinot Noir 2019. The 2020 vintage was another stellar one for England, and so one would expect another triumph for Danbury Ridge. Indeed, record levels of ripening were achieved in early September, before the cooler period allowed the grapes, particularly the Pinot Noir, to develop complex and concentrated flavours whilst retaining that signature English acidity. These two wines are sensational, and I’m delighted to have the chance to share my thoughts on them with you.
Danbury Ridge Chardonnay 2020
Fruit for the Chardonnay 2020 came from three sites: Sleipnir Vineyard and two sites along the Blackwater Estuary and River Crouch. The juice was fermented in 229L Burgundy barrels on gross lees for ten months, before being transferred to tank for a further six months of ageing on gross lees.
This wine has a most appealing nose, beginning with waves of ripe orchard fruit, honeysuckle and ripe peach, and the estate’s characteristic tangerine skin aromas.
The palate is generous and plush in a way that English Chardonnay rarely is. There are initial bursts of crisp orchard fruit and limey citrus, but also an astounding level of fruit ripeness that manifests in flavours of poached pear and peach.
This 2020 has a slight oily hug that I don’t recall the ‘estate’ 2018 having, and the structure and length also seem to have taken a step up. The finish is floral and mineral-laced, interchanging with prominent but deftly integrated oak spice.
This is hugely impressive and one of the stand-outs from Danbury Ridge so far.
Danbury Ridge Pinot Noir 2020
Grapes: Pinot Noir
I tried this wine pre-release much earlier in the year when it was not quite ready, but it’s really come on in leaps and bounds since.
Much like its white 2020 counterpart, this Pinot Noir immediately impresses with its expressive and exuberant nose. Ripe red cherry aromas are partnered with notes of black fruit and spice, and distinctive peppery and dark floral notes.
The palate once again exhibits unparalleled generosity for an English still wine, with its layered dark cherry and ripe blackberry intensity.
There’s such a concentration in the fruit that is more than impressive, but there’s also a nice burst of raspberry tang and acidity that counter the fruit ripeness. The finish is again lengthy, packed with notes of graphite, dark chocolate, woody spices, and cracked black pepper.
Again, this shows a real step up in texture, and it will get even better with a bit of bottle age.
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