It’s English Wine Week! And while things may be a bit later than usual – and quite different due to ongoing social distancing measures – there’s still lots going on. While many vineyards are now starting to open for the sale and collection of wines, it’s still not possible to get back to the norm of vineyard tours and tastings of delicious wines in stunning locations. Instead, this year English Wine Week is embracing the virtual side of things. So why not take to Instagram, Zoom or Facebook and join in on a session, whilst enjoying a drop of local wine.
I’m very excited to be hosting a ‘Vineyards of the Surrey Hills’ tasting on Friday 26th June at 7.00pm on Instagram, and you can order a case of six bottles at a special price of £135 including delivery to taste along with me. There’s lots more happening, too, and here are a few highlights that I’m looking forward to during the course of the week:
Onto this month’s wines, of which there is an especially diverse selection – perfect for exploring during English Wine Week. My wine of the month is the Flint Pinot Précoce 2019 (£19.99, Grape Britannia), which is one of the Norfolk winery’s best wines to date, surprising with its concentration and richness. Two other tasty new English reds are featured this month: Stanlake Park The Reserve NV (£17.99, Grape Britannia) and Woodchester Valley Atcombe Red 2018 (£17.99, Grape Britannia).
Another delicious new release this month is Danebury’s Reserve 2018 (£10.99, Grape Britannia) which was another standout new release having entertained the judges of the Sommelier Wine Awards, earning it a Gold medal. Meanwhile, Martin’s Lane Chardonnay 2016 (£16.99, Martin’s Lane Vineyard) was one of many highlights from our English Wine Night chats over the past couple of months, with its distinctive, aromatic floral charms. Finally, I’ve included two spectacular sparkling wines: Squerryes’ superb new Blanc de Blancs 2014, which is currently a members-only release, and the delicious Windsor Great Park Brut 2015 (£37.99, Laithwaites).
Flint Vineyard Pinot Noir Précoce 2019
• WINE OF THE MONTH •
Grapes: Pinot Noir Précoce
Following up a vintage dubbed by many as one of the greatest of all time in England is never easy, especially when you are trying to make a red wine in England. However, Hannah and Ben Witchell of Flint Vineyard have come up trumps with their early ripening Pinot Précoce 2019; it’s one of their most accomplished wines to date.
With its alluring ruby red colour, this wine has an inviting nose of bright cherry and raspberry, with hints of dark cherry, black fruit and a lick of toasted spice.
It has a generous and smooth palate, but with a refreshing, tangy cut through of raspberry and cranberry. Then, lovely peppery notes and soft tannic presence brings structure and length. A truly delicious English red.
Danebury Reserve 2018
Grapes: Madeleine Angevine, Schönburger, Auxerrois & Pinot Gris
Regular readers of Great British Wine should be familiar with Danebury wines, as I’ve spoken about them quite a few times over the years and am a particular fan of their Madeleine Angevine. This new Reserve 2018 vintage, a blend of Madeleine, Schönburger, Auxerrois and Pinot Gris, has reached for the stars by taking home not one but two awards Sommelier Wine Awards 2020; Gold Medal and Best Wine by the Glass.
And it’s immediately apparent why the judges were so taken with the wine, with its evocative nose of honeysuckle, ripe pear, peach and fragrant citrus peels, all hiding behind a deceivingly pale complexion.
To taste, it’s bursting full of zest and crispness initially, and then that’s immediately countered by waves of ripe orchard fruit flavours; think pink apples and peaches. With floral and white pepper notes on the finish, this wine is as delicate and textured as it is bright and energetic. It’s also exceptionally well priced.
Windsor Great Park 2015
Grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
While the first vintage (2013) of Windsor Great Park was a little green and tight, the follow-up vintage of 2014 was much more generous, thanks to the warm summer and ripe vintage of that year. This is my first taste of the 2015 vintage, and it’s the best yet.
It’s a Chardonnay-dominant blend with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, revealing a lovely toasted nose with baked apples, white peach, brioche and crushed nut aromas.
To taste, there’s brisk crisp citrus energy up front and the mid-taste is rich and vibrant with redolent ripe orchard fruits. There is great length, with toasted nut and mineral notes. Overall, a suitably elegant wine, fit for royalty!
Squerryes Blanc de Blancs 2014
It’s been a long time in the waiting, in fact nearly six years since the Chardonnay grapes were harvested in 2014, but the first Squerryes Blanc de Blancs is finally here and presently only available to members.
The nose is immediately appealing, with green apple, hints of pear, ripe white peach and lightly honeyed notes suggesting the indulgence of that warm 2014 vintage.
The palate is brisk and lean, more so than the nose suggested. But the wine has that classic angular Chardonnay dynamic acidity, and the fruit is bright, tangy and crunchy without being overly plump.
This is a bright gem, and one of a handful of 2014 vintage English sparklers that I think has a long life ahead. It’s drinking well now, but will be even better in a year or two – it’s that Squerryes patience motif once again personified.
Stanlake Park The Reserve NV
Of the four new-look wines released last month by Stanlake Park, this is the one that really shows winemaker Nico Centonze’s Italian roots. While the Dornfelder grape is unlikely to set many Italians’ pulses flowing, Nico has done a remarkable job at injecting Mediterranean energy and brightness into this multi-vintage blend of 2017, 2018 and 2019 fruit.
This wine has a pleasingly deep ruby hue, and a punchy, bright nose to match. There are aromas of ripe cherry, blackcurrant and damson flowers, with a distinctive peppery, woody spice.
To taste, energetic acidity is combined with a bright fusion of both red and blackberry fruits: dark and red cherries, blackberries and a nice hint of plummy ripeness. A gentle tannic weight and a warming, spiced finish round off a thoroughly successful red.
Martin’s Lane Chardonnay 2016
This is a really interesting wine, as it’s made from an aromatic clone of Chardonnay grown by Martin’s Lane in the Crouch Valley in Essex. This clone is used here for the first time in a still wine, having been previously used for their Blanc de Blancs.
This wine is unoaked, letting the intense aromatic qualities show through. There are aromas of ripe peach, pear, honeysuckle and even grilled pineapple.
The promise of the nose is also delivered on the palate, with a combination of ripe orchard fruit flavours, hints of stone fruit and delicate floral undertones.
Woodchester Valley Atcombe Red 2018
Grapes: Pinot Noir/Précoce & Regent
A blend of 82% Pinot Noir/Précoce with 18% Regent, this is another really impressive English still wine from winemaker Jeremy Mount, of Woodchester Valley in the Cotswolds.
Pleasingly ruby coloured with nice depth, the Atcombe has a bright, appealing nose of ripe cherry, dark berries and spiced, smoky notes, with a hint of chocolate.
The palate is brimming with both red and black fruit flavours. There are bright, tangy cherries, ripe and crunchy blackcurrant, supported by peppery spice, hints of caramel and toasted oak. This is accomplished and well made.
John catches with winemaker Ben Witchell of Flint Vineyard in Norfolk for a thorough taste of Ben’s 2021 vintage.
A belated kick-off to the 2022 monthly round-ups sees John look at a selection of the latest and greatest still and sparkling English wines.
Stephen tours seven Kentish winemakers in a day and looks at the region's approach to wine tourism.
This month's roundup takes a look at sparkling wines made from lesser known grapes from across the country.
John returns from a Christmas and New Year break with a fresh batch of diverse and delicious English wines.
As the colder months set in, John takes a look at some of the fantastic English Pinot Noir available right now.