It's hard to keep up with what's new and exciting in English Wine, and with a year of exciting new wine discoveries ahead I've decided to start a monthly roundup of wines that are either new to market, or from producers we have not covered previously.
This month we've had a tasting of fantastic sparkling wines from Charles Palmer - a producer who we will be featuring more on Great British Wine in the coming months. The smashing sparkling rosé we've included here is a fantastic place to start.
I've also included a duo of new Blanc de Noirs releases from GBW regulars Langham Estate (Dorset) and Harrow & Hope (Buckinghamshire). These two delicious wines, both made from the 2013 vintage, just missed our Blanc de Noirs feature last month.
Each month I'll also be venturing out to supermarkets and mainstream retailers to look for the most accessible English wines on the market. This month's selection from Waitrose ticks both the availability (stacked nationally) and price point boxes. Great work from the Waitrose wine team here!
And finally, we've got this month's innovator, which is not, in fact, a wine, but a gin! Signifying continued diversification from Chapel Down and the English wine industry as a whole, this remarkable gin is as unique in character as it is in the production process.
New Producer Discoveries
Charles Palmer Classic Cuvée 2013
REGION: Sussex GRAPES: Chardonnay & Pinot Noir
About the Winemaker: The first vines were planted in Winchelsea at Charles Palmer Vineyards in 2006. The business is family run, with winemaking duties handled externally by Will Davenport until the 2017 vintage.
With gentle streams of fine bubbles and light golden tones, the Classic Cuvée impresses with its open and opulent nose, full of ripe stone fruit, sweet brioche and honeyed pastry notes.
It doesn’t let down on the palate either, as a rather full and unctuous experience unfolds. Fleshy peach, baked orchard fruit and apricot pastry all come to mind.
The fruits are fleshy, juicy and sweet, though a firm dry acidity and brilliant lemon meringue zing cuts through it all and forms a real treat for the taste buds!
- Buy Directly from Producer £34.00
New wines from Producers we Love
Langham Estate Blanc de Noirs 2013
REGION: Dorset GRAPES: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier
About the Winemaker: The first vines were planted at Langham Wine Estate in Dorset in 2009. The vineyards now total 30 acres growing the classic three sparkling wine varietals.
I’ve been looking forward to a new Langham Blanc de Noirs after the previous ’11 vintage was a quick sell-out. The ’13 is made from 58% Pinot Noir and 42% Pinot Meunier.
This is one of those Noirs that has a slight lick of colour to it from the Pinots, giving an alluring bronzed tone. It smells wonderful, starting with light citrus and sweet red apple, with hints of honey, nutty pastry and floral notes.
The taste is initially brilliantly dry and focused, leading to a complex unfolding of red apple and toasted nut, with strong red fruit suggestions.
A very refined drop of fizz with gorgeous textures throughout, this will only get better and will mature excellently in the bottle.
- Buy Directly from Producer £27.00
Harrow & Hope Blanc de Noirs 2013
REGION: Buckinghamshire GRAPES: Pinot Noir
About the Winemaker: Henry Laithwaite’s Harrow & Hope vineyard has gone from strength to strength, with a series of young but delicious English Sparkling wines.
Another wine that just missed out on our Blanc de Noirs feature last month, the H&H is a blend of 68% Pinot Noir and 35% Pinot Meunier that spent 3 years on lees and currently 6 months under cork prior to tasting.
This wine has a huge presence; it’s confident and boisterous with a huge punchy acidity up front, but enough depth and weight to match. After an intense citrus bite, a broad, rich biscuit and concentrated stone fruit mid-taste develops.
It was great to taste this side by side with the Langham; the H&H being ballsy and confident, whilst the Langham demure and restrained with hidden depths. Both, however, are fantastic wines and further demonstrate the diversity of English Blanc de Noirs.
- Buy Directly from Producer £38.00
Supermarket & Mainstream Retailer Choices
Waitrose Dry English White 2015
REGION: Surrey GRAPES: Seyval Blanc
About the Winemaker: Denbies, based in Dorking, Surrey has a huge 265 acres of land under vine. The wines are made on site in conjunction with the Litmus Wines team.
This month I've selected two wines that are exclusive to Waitrose for our Supermarket picks. This is a lovely fresh white wine made from Seyval Blanc.
Refreshing citrus zest aromas, floral notes and springtime meadow grass; light and elegantly English. The palate delivers a lot for an entry-level English white, beginning with a fresh embrace of pithy lemon.
A full and fleshy mid-taste that takes a tropical twist with hints of pineapple and papaya, whilst the zing of grapefruit and lime lingers with a slightly peppery finish.
- Buy from Waitrose Cellar £8.99
Leckford Estate Brut 203
REGION: Hampshire GRAPES: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
About the Winemaker: Grown at Waitrose's own 4.7 hectare vineyard at their Leckford Estate farm in Hampshire, with winemaking duties handled by the Ridgeview Estate team.
Now in its third vintage, this 2013 is a big step in the right direction, bringing a new-found depth and honeyed ripeness for Waitrose own Leckford Estate sparkling.
2013 was an excellent vintage in England, as demonstrated by this wine’s plush apricot and red apple aromas, with a nice hint of brioche and nutty complexity.
This honeyed stone fruit richness continues through the to the taste, paired with supple creamy textures and just the right amount of citrus zing to balance.
For what is essentially an own-label wine for Waitrose, this is a cut above many examples in the price range and exceptionally good value.
- Buy from Waitrose £24.99
English Wine Innovation
Chapel Down Bacchus Gin
REGION: Kent GRAPES: Bacchus
About the Winemaker: Chapel Down, England’s biggest wine producer, continues to diversify by adding premium spirits to its already impressive portfolio of wine, beer and cider.
Chapel Down’s first proper foray into the world of spirits is hugely exciting, as it binds together winemaking principles and English wine by-products with a whole new category of drinks. This aromatic gin is made from a base spirit derived from Bacchus grape skins, blended together with a neutral grain spirit.
The result is an unmistakably English wine take on gin – fusing the floral, grassy characteristics of Bacchus with highly aromatic botanicals such as lavender, elderflower and angelica.
Super refreshing and a most distinctive gin, we'll be taking a closer look at Chapel Down's spirits next month!
- Buy Directly from Producer £35.00