Tasting the latest from Breaky Bottom

It almost feels like a duty to English Wine, and to the long, triumphant history of Peter Hall, for Great British Wine to take an annual look at the past and present wines from Breaky Bottom.

Last year, I headed down to Breaky Bottom with collaborator, Alex Ram, for a morning with the legendary Sussex winemaker to taste the Past, Present and Future of his wine. Unfortunately, this year, due to a combination of lockdown restrictions and parenthood, I have barely stepped foot in an English vineyard, so my annual trip to see Peter has not taken place.

Very kindly, Peter sent up some samples of his newest Cuvée wines: Cuvée Jack Pike 2015 and Cuvée David Pearson 2015. Alex and I took the chance to break out some previous vintages from the GBW cellars and conduct a sort of mini-vertical of Breaky Bottom wines, five years apart.

It’s always a treat to discover new wines from Peter, and even more so to compare them to similar Cuvée blends that have been given ample time to evolve into something extraordinary.

2010 and 2015 Seyval Blanc

Breaky Bottom 1989 Wurzer

A Trio of Chardonnay Pinot Blends

Peter also surprised us with a blast from the past: a rare bottle of Breaky Bottom Würzer 1989 Dry Table Wine. It’s always a treat jumping into a bottle of relatively unknown origin from the days before Peter turned his attention to sparkling wines. This almost forgotten grape is a German crossing of Gewürztraminer with Müller-Thurgau and achieved a certain level of popularity in the UK in the ’80s and ’90s. Despite three decades under cork, the wine was still surprisingly alive – a testament to the ageability of Peter’s wines. There were still traces of the Würzer’s aromatic ancestry, with notes of mango, melon and green apple. Ultimately a little challenging to drink now, it was no less fascinating to taste such an English rarity.

This has been something of a watershed year for Breaky Bottom. No stranger to awards and accolades, Peter’s wines took home an unprecedented five Gold Medals in the WineGB 2020 Awards, including two of the wines we re-tasted: Cuvée Reynolds Stone 2010 and Cuvée Gerard Hoffnung 2009. Meanwhile, the two latest releases, Cuvée Jack Pike 2015 and Cuvée David Pearson 2015, were awarded Silver Medals.

Cuvée Jack Pike 2015

Blend: 100% Seyval Blanc

Cuvée Jack Pike attracts with a flamboyant and piquant nose of citrus zest, waxy lemons, ripe pear, toasted almonds and crushed shells, with a light seasoning of biscuit and pastry.

The palate has an intense grab, with lively, linear acidity, sherbet lemon and green apple. It is direct and laser-focussed, as Peter’s young Seyval always is. I can’t wait to see how this evolves over time.

Cuvée Koizumi Yakumo 2010

Blend: 100% Seyval Blanc

This has a gorgeous nose with golden hues. There are aromas of baked pear, toasted meringue, marzipan with custard and hints of vanilla.

The palate is gorgeous and involving in a way that Seyval has never been before. The acidity is still pronounced and lively, but surrounded by creamy lemon curd, caramelised pear and spiced pastry.

Not only is this the best Seyval Blanc ever made, it’s up there with my all-time favourite sparkling English wines.

Cuvée David Pearson 2015

Blend: 70% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Noir & 15% Pinot Meunier

This latest Chardonnay / Pinot blend opened with lots of opulence on the nose of this young (for a Peter Hall wine) release. There are ripe red apples, apricot and peach skin with a hint of caramelised pastry and vanilla.

The palate on this still feels incredibly young. Perhaps even more laser-sharp than its 2015 counterpart Seyval, this is packed with tangy green apple. Overall, it’s very lean in structure; this a wine that’s in it for the long haul, but we felt it was not quite the right time to drink now.

Cuvée Reynolds Stone 2010

Blend: 70% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Noir & 15% Pinot Meunier

What can be said about this wine that hasn’t already been said in the past? The 2010 vintages are, in my opinion, Peter’s finest work – and they continue to sit in a place of harmony between extended ageing and exuberant vibrancy that the vintage brought about.

This wine has almost unparalleled elegance and refinement, with a luxurious nose of toasted nuts, baked pastry and candied citrus. The palate delivers all of the textural autolytic character that the nose promises, but is elevated by vibrant citrus and lemon curd, and the signature crunchy English orchard fruit flavours. Outstanding.

Cuvée Gerard Hoffnung 2009

Blend: 60% Chardonnay, 22% Pinot Noir, 18% Pinot Meunier

Cuvée Gerard Hoffnung has a nuanced and unpredictable character. Echoing other 2009 vintage English sparkling wines I’ve had, this vintage can sometimes feel a little tired. However, this particular bottle was really on form.

Building on the exuberant 2010 vintages, this was also packed full of rich autolytic biscuit character, with a big nod towards patisserie creaminess. There are textures of vanilla cheesecake, caramelised sugar and even toffee apple, but still with a nice streak of vibrant acidity and lime.

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