This year, more so than any in recent history, it feels appropriate to indulge oneself at Christmas, a sentiment captured by many large retailers in their TV advertising campaigns. Indulgence, in terms of enjoying wine should, in our view, be about savouring truly special bottles that will transcend the moment and provide lingering, joyous, memories.
One of the highlights of our year at Grape Britannia is putting together our mixed Christmas cases which are designed to cover all the wine bases on Christmas Day. Our Select (£90) and Premium (£145) Cases provide wonderful ways to enjoy English wines throughout the day, but for this article I am going to take you through the decadent Deluxe Case (£450) – all the wines are available separately, should you want just a bottle or two.
Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs 2016
Wake your palate up with this stunning Blanc de Blancs from arguably England’s top sparkling wine producer. Their consistency in winning awards in all the major national and international wine competitions, across their range of wines, is a concrete demonstration of this.
The Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs 2016 is light golden in colour, with aromas of the ripest green apples, preserved lemon, poached pear and brioche. The palate is rich and elegant, with candied citrus, stone fruits and toasted hazelnuts. It also harbours attractive mineral notes and some salinity, and delivers a long, rounded finish.
The overall result is a complex but refreshing wine to start your Christmas celebrations with.
Nyetimber 1086 Prestige Cuvée 2010
Grape: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
Region: West Sussex
Nyetimber’s 1086 Prestige Cuvée 2010 is the pinnacle of English Sparkling Wine. With only the best grapes selected from their extensive sites, and eight full years on lees, the ingredients and techniques provide the foundation for an exceptional wine. The aromas are refined and complex, with almond croissant and toasted nut leaping out upfront, followed by ripe English orchard fruit and citrus peel aromas.
To taste, the 1086 presents a vibrant, tangy citrus and orchard fruit fusion upfront that softens to riper stone fruit flavours, with white peach to the fore. The mid-taste offers a creamy, nougat richness, which envelops and complements the radiant fruit flavours.
There’s a real sense of journey and structure to the wine, and it ends on a lingering aftertaste of crushed, toasted nuts and light mineral hues. It’s a truly sublime wine, and the balance between richness and fruit purity is an absolute triumph.
Simpsons Wine Estate The Roman Road Chardonnay 2019
This single vineyard Chardonnay is created from grapes carefully selected for their maturity and concentration. There are some wines which you know will improve from cellaring for a few years, but which you find hard to resist broaching as they are already wonderful. The Roman Road Chardonnay 2019 is one of those wines.
The wine displays aromas of white peach and lime, with clean, citrus flavours, smooth cashew nut on the palate, and subtle hints of spice and vanilla. It is named after the Roman Road Vineyard, which is situated on a steep, sunny, sheltered, south-facing slope of the North Downs of Kent – a site that at first glance you know has the perfect attributes for an English vineyard.
It is elegant and pure, with a distinctive mineral quality that you would expect from fruit grown on these iconic chalk soils.
Balfour Hush Heath The Red Miller 2018
Grape: Pinot Meunier
This is the first ever English red wine to win a Gold Medal at the International Wine Challenge. The grapes come from an outstanding lot in Kent, where maximum ripeness has been achieved in the Pinot Meunier grapes. It is unusual to see Pinot Meunier vinified on its own as a still red wine, but this example will almost certainly encourage more.
With minimal filtration and no fining, the winemaker, Owen Elias – one of the most experienced in the UK – has really let the grapes do the talking. The wine has gorgeous smoky mulberry, blackberry, raspberry, redcurrant and spice flavours, with soft and balanced tannins. Having tasted it several times over the past year, its trajectory is clearly upward, and we believe that it’s drinking even better than when it won its Gold Medal.
Denbies Wine Estate The Brokes Botrytis Ortega 2016
This is one of those real rarities, a botrytised English dessert wine. In famous regions like Sauternes in France, the conditions for botrytis, or noble rot as it is also known, are pretty much guaranteed year-in, year-out; in England there is nowhere with such conditions – the last time that Denbies Wine Estate, which is situated on the North Downs, near the town of Dorking, had them, was 2016.
The Brokes Botrytis 2016 is made entirely from hand-picked botrytised Ortega within the Brokes area of the Denbies Vineyard. The first pressing of the Ortega grapes revealed its fantastic quality. It was fermented partly in oak and partly in stainless steel, then spent time in French oak to provide even greater depth to this unctuous wine.
The wine is golden in colour with vanilla and dried apricot characters on the nose. A luscious and complex dessert wine with fig and caramelised orange on the palate, it finishes crisply and can be enjoyed with a wide array of foods, including Christmas puddings. Only 500 bottles of this wine were made.
Chapel Down Lamberhurst 23 years aged Brandy
Grape: Seyval Blanc
The happiest of happy accidents, this Limited Edition Release brandy was not intended to age for 23 years, but the barrel it lay maturing in got forgotten about!
The spirit was distilled in 1992 and matured in French oak barrels for 23 years before Chapel Down got a phone call from Lamberhurst Vineyard to let them know that they had rediscovered it. It is deliciously restrained with warming aromas of stewed fruit, dark honey and liquorice, together with a complex palate of caramelised baked apples, cinnamon and spice, and a velvety mouthfeel.
It really is one of the smoothest brandies you are ever likely to experience, and the perfect way to end Christmas Day!
More from Grape Britannia:
To celebrate the end of a challenging, but rewarding year in English wine, Great British Wine and Grape Britannia have teamed up to put together a special case of six of John’s top English wines of the year.
Matt talks through his indulgent festive 2020 selection from Grape Britannia including prestige sparkling, white, red and dessert wine and a rare aged brandy.
We caught up with Matt Hodgson of Grape Britannia after his monumental win to become the 2020 Decanter Retailer Awards Best English & Welsh Wine Specialist.
John takes a look at a selection of 2013 (and one 2017) sparkling wines from the Vineyards of the Surrey Hills.
For English Wine Week, John looks at a selection of diverse and innovative wines.
In part two of the April round-up, John tastes through seven diverse sparkling rosé wines.
In the first of a double feature, John rounds up a selection of the best still English rosé wines from the 2022 vintage.
For the latest in the English Vertical Series, John tastes through eight vintages of Chapel Down's flagship Kit's Coty Chardonnay.
John takes a look at a selection of still and sparkling English Chardonnay.