It has been a month of rediscovering Hampshire, after attending the Vineyards of Hampshire Trade Tasting a couple of weeks ago. It was great to revisit the many great wines from one of the country’s top regions for sparkling wine. What impressed me the most was how, between the eight producers represented (Black Chalk, Cottonworth, Danebury, Exton Park, Hambledon, Hattingley Valley, Jenkyn Place and Raimes English Sparkling), there is a growing confidence and increased diversity in the expressions that each producer is delivering.
Particularly impressive in the current Hampshire portfolio were the Non Vintage offerings, of which the Cottonworth Brut NV (£28) and Hattingley Classic Reserve (£30) were my picks of the crop thanks to their exceptional balance. Of the vintage offerings, the Raimes Blanc de Noirs 2015 (£35) was particularly memorable, along with the Classic Cuvée 2014 (which I featured last August). Also of particular note was the new vintage Black Chalk Wild Rosé 2016, which looks set to follow in the confident footsteps of its 2015 predecessor. We'll be featuring this wine fully when it launches in due course.
Outside of the VoH tasting, I had the chance to catch up with Tristran Coates of Coates and Seely over lunch and a tasting of their portfolio of wines. The Coates & Seely Rosé NV was a standout for me, in addition to the superbly matured La Perfide Rosé and Blanc de Blancs.
Just across the border from Hampshire, back in my home county of Surrey and we have a very special new release from Greyfriars. I have previewed their brand new Blanc de Noirs NV, this month’s 'Wine of the Month', which will be officially launching in a couple of weeks’ time. It's the best wine to date from Greyfriars and an absolute steal (once again) at £30. Finally, we have a brand-new vintage of Chapel Down's class-leading Kit's Coty Chardonnay 2016 (£30), which once again demonstrates just how great single-varietal English wine can be.
Wine of the Month
Greyfriars Blanc de Noirs NV
REGION: Surrey GRAPES: Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
Since taking over the vineyard in 2010, Mike & Hilary Wagstaff have continually expanded Greyfriars, and it now spans almost 50 acres of vines and houses a state-of-the-art winery and chalk cave.
The brand new Blanc de Noirs is the second special Cuvée from Greyfrairs and is a blend of 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Meunier from the 2015 and 2014 harvests.
This wine begins striking nose of red apple, candy floss, lemon zest and dried orange peel; it's so very appealing!
It feels immediately bright to taste, packed full of character, nuance and interest. Crisp orchard fruit leads to fuller notes of honeyed apricot and delicious biscuit and savoury notes.
Already showing fantastic complexity and depth, I think this will be something to truly savour given another couple of years in the bottle. Look out for the Greyfriars Blanc de Noirs when it officially launches at the end of March.
- Buy from Greyfriars Vineyard £30.00
Hampshire Sparkling Focus
Raimes Blanc de Blancs 2015
REGION: Hampshire GRAPES: Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
Keeping up the family theme, Raimes English Sparkling is another producer that comes from the hands of a husband and wife team. Augusta and Robert Raimes have certainly made an impression with their Blanc de Noirs, which is now in its third vintage.
The 2015 is a blend of 69% Pinot Noir and 31% Pinot Meunier, and commands attention with its delightful nose of raspberry, red apple and subtle hints of toasted nuts and spice.
The palate is bright and crisp up front, with tangy cranberry and red currant notes, while ripe orchard fruit flavours and a fine mousse add structure and elegance.
Cottonworth Classic Cuvée NV
REGION: Hampshire GRAPES: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
My second pic from the Vineyards of Hampshire tasting is the Cottonworth Brut NV. Owner Hugh Liddell has a wealth of experience in Burgundy, and is a firm believer in giving his sparkling wines the right amount of time to develop.
As such, the current release of the Classic Cuvée, a blend of 46% Pinot Noir, 45% Chardonnay and 9% Pinot Meunier, incorporates 30% reserve wine into the blend with 2014 base wine. It spent 34 months on lees and a further year under cork.
The resulting wine has superb balance and integration, opening up with a classic nose of peach and orchard fruit, with delightful toasty notes.
It tastes superb too; the bottle ageing has helped to impart a sumptuous, creamy mouthfeel, which sits perfectly with the ripe orchard and stone fruit flavours.
- Buy from Cottonworth £28.00
Hattingley Classic Reserve
REGION: Hampshire GRAPES: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Meunier & Gris
Hattingley Valley's wines were all very impressive at the VoH tasting, including the long-awaited new vintage of Blanc de Blancs 2013, which we will be covering on release in the coming months.
Their flagship Classic Reserve was a real star too. Based on the 2014 harvest, with approximately 18% reserve wine, it's a blend of 50% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir, 19% Pinot Meunier and 1% Pinot Gris.
With two years on lees, and significant time under cork, the Classic demonstrated a superb balance between the crisp green orchard fruit and citrus notes and a developing brioche subtlety.
Overall, a really bright and characterful drop of English sparkling.
Coates & Seely Rosé NV
REGION: Hampshire GRAPES: Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
Well known for their multi-award winning La Perfide vintage sparkling wines, it was Coates & Seely's Rosé NV that really tickled my fancy during a recent lunchtime tasting.
Rosé wine forms 40% of the production at Coates & Seely, and this NV is a red grape only blend of 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Pinot Meunier. It is predominately made of the 2014 harvest with 10% reserve wine and a low dosage of 3.9 g/l.
The nose on this rosé was hugely appealing, with ripe red berry notes of strawberry and raspberry as well as suggestions of apricot.
To taste, it's wonderfully ripe and succulent with red berry and stone fruit flavours. Pristine white peach notes, while still retaining a clean, bright acidity on the finish. A stunning rosé to pair with a plate of fresh native oysters.
- Buy from Coates & Seely £31.95
Flagship English Chardonnay
Chapel Down Kit’s Coty Chardonnay 2016
REGION: Kent GRAPES: Chardonnay
This is the wine that kicked off Chapel Down's single vineyard Kit's Coty range, now in its official fourth vintage since the launch of the bespoke label. It's still flying the flag as best in class for English still Chardonnay.
The nose on the 2016 is instantly appealing, with a decadent mix of ripe apple, hints of peach and orange peel, as well as toasted hazelnuts.
The palate is met with a wonderful zesty tension, full of citrus zing and crisp, crunchy apples. This evolves through to subtle peach notes, hints of tropical fruit and a light nutty spice.
It's still a little on the tight side, but of all the Kit's Chardonnay releases to date, this is perhaps the one that has the most ageing potential. Fantastic.
- Buy from Chapel Down £30.00
For this month's round-up, John puts the focus back on English sparkling, with six top new wine picks.
John takes a festive look at some top English sparkling to enjoy over the Christmas and new year period.
Matt talks through his indulgent festive 2020 selection from Grape Britannia including prestige sparkling, white, red and dessert wine and a rare aged brandy.
John tastes through ten delicious and diverse examples of English Bacchus, which demonstrate just why this is the white grape of choice in England right now.
Continuing our exploration of all things pink-coloured, John takes a look at the latest and greatest trends in English sparkling rosé.
With lockdown measures starting to lift, Sam takes a look at the five Vineyards of the Surrey Hills that you should visit this summer.