After a busy December looking at not only the best value and most ‘prestige’ English sparkling wines, but also a selection of sweeter English wines, I’m back this January with a selection of exciting new wine discoveries.
This month’s sparkling selection is exceptional, starting with our wine of the month, the Oastbrook Estate Rosé (£38.00). This deep, intense rosé is one of the best I’ve had in recent times. Also hugely impressive were both the Roebuck Estates Classic Cuvée 2014 (£35.00) and Winbirri Vintage Reserve 2014 (£25.00) which perfectly demonstrate the welcoming qualities of the ripe 2014 vintage.
Meanwhile, on the still side, we have a duo of tasty whites from Denbies Wine Estate: the Bacchus 2018 (£14.95) and Pinot Gris 2018 (£18.95). Both impressed and improved upon the foundations set over the last few vintages in this impressive Vineyard Select Range. Finally, I have a surprisingly rich, full-bodied red from Little Wold Vineyard in East Yorkshire. Their Three Cocked Hat 2018 (£14.00) is 100% Rondo, and is one of the best examples of this divisive grape that I have tasted.
Wine of the Month
Oastbrook Estate Rosé 2015
REGION: Sussex GRAPES: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay & Pinot Meunier
This is the second vintage of sparkling rosé from America Brewer’s Oastbrook Estate, set in the heart of Sussex, just a stone’s throw from Bodiam Castle.
Once again, she has teamed up with Dermot Sugrue on the winemaking side but this vintage has a very different make-up to the first vintage. It’s a blend of 50% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Meunier, with a lower dosage of 8g/l.
This energetic bottle opens with a bold, deep pink hue and an intense nose of dried cranberry, fruits of the forest and a little bit of dried meat and savoury funk. This rosé means business!
The palate is bold, nuanced, and intense; there’s lots of ripe cranberry, wild raspberry, cherry and winter spice. It’s expansive and involving, so much so that it can stand up to indulgent foods such as duck liver parfait and roasted meats. With orange peel and spiced notes on the lengthy finish, this is a real wine lover’s rosé. Outstanding.
Where to Buy
Buy from Oastbrook Estate £38.00
Exceptional 2014 English Sparkling
Roebuck Estates Classic Cuvée 2014
REGION: Sussex GRAPES: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
Roebuck Estates are one of the newer players on the English wine scene, now spanning over 200,000 vines across four sites in Sussex.
This second vintage has already earned some top critical acclaim, and is a blend of 47% Chardonnay with 38% Pinot Noir and 15% Pinot Meunier.
The Roebuck 2014 begins with a beautiful, elegant nose of toasted hazelnut, crisp green orchard fruits, hints of cranberry and orange peel.
The palate is elegant, refined and superbly structured with smokey mineral, crushed almond and subtle truffle notes.
The complexities of this wine really stand out, interweaved with apple strudel and light cranberry notes forming a sublime balance, and is a great calling card for this exciting new Sussex producer.
Where to Buy
Buy from Roebuck Estates £35.00
Winbirri Vintage Reserve 2014
REGION: Norfolk GRAPES: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
Much like the 2018 still wines that I reviewed from Winbirri last year, in my opinion, this latest 2014 release of Winbirri Vintage Reserve is the Norfolk producer’s best effort yet.
It opens with a bright, opulent nose of peach tarte-tatin, apple pudding, toast with honey and preserved citrus notes. It’s really very inviting!
The palate is rather big too, with expansive stone fruit and baked pear richness, and lots of buttery brioche flavours. There is a real warmth and depth to the fruit, with just the right amount of biscuit, and a fresh, citrus bite that reins it all in.
Overall, this is a big crowd-pleaser of a wine, so packed full of fruit that it really appeals, but with all the right brioche notes and crisp cut-through to add structure and depth.
Where to Buy
Buy from Winbirri Vineyard £25.00
New 2018 Still Wines
Denbies Vineyard Select Bacchus 2018
REGION: Surrey GRAPES: Bacchus
After great success with the Denbies Vineyard Select Ranmore Hill 2017, we were really excited to get a taste of the two first 2018 still whites from the same range. This Bacchus was partially (20%) barrel fermented and aged.
The nose is quite distinctive, with English hedgerow, dandelion leaf, cut grass and zesty tropical fruit aromas.
The taste is cleaner and leaner than the previous vintage of Bacchus from Denbies, with a pungent hit of lime, grapefruit and tangy papaya.
The oak is less pronounced than before too, letting the tropical fruits sing through a little more. The oak character is just there, lingering in the background, giving the wine a textural lift.
Overall, this is a little understated compared to previous efforts. However, in my opinion, it’s all the better for it!
Where to Buy
Buy from Denbies Wine Estate £14.95
Denbies Vineyard Select Pinot Gris 2018
REGION: Surrey GRAPES: Pinot Gris
Another new vintage in Denbies’ expressive Vineyard Select range, this 100% Pinot Gris white was partially (60%) barrel fermented and aged in oak for a further eight months.
The imprint of the oak feels more present on the Gris than the Bacchus, leading to a nose of grilled peaches, hints of pineapple and honeysuckle, and a light honeyed oak note.
This really sings on the palate; it’s got a peach melba exuberance going on that I’ve picked up in Surrey-grown Pinot Gris before in exceptional years. There’s a lush, silky depth to the fruit here but still lots of citrus tang and zest.
This is a recently bottling, so still a little tight, but this has already got such energy and ripeness that it’s only going to get better.
Where to Buy
Buy from Denbies Wine Estate £18.95
Little Wold Three Cocked Hat 2018
REGION: Yorkshire GRAPES: Rondo
It has to be said that I’m not the biggest fan of Rondo as a grape variety, and I know I’m not alone with this grape prejudice. With that said, I was pleasantly surprised by this, especially considering it is from one of the northernmost commercial vineyards in the country, Little Wold Vineyard, in the Yorkshire Wolds.
I had a chance to sample a selection of wines from Little Wold after independent retailers, House of Townend, got in touch with me to offer samples. They are located just over 5 miles from the vineyard, which was planted in 2012 with five white varieties and three red varieties.
There’s a rich, ruby red colour to this wine, and this Rondo has got a lot of character going on on the nose, too. With aromas of blackcurrant, winter berry, forest floor and tobacco spice, it’s got all the character of a full-bodied, oaked red wine.
Flavour-wise, the Little Wold red also demonstrates an amiable richness and depth that elevates it above most Rondo that I’ve sampled. It’s quite fruit-forward with lots of dark berry flavours and a nice bit of tangy black cherry.
Where to Buy
Buy from House of Townend £14.00