Continuing my English retrospective series, with this article I’ve looked at a cross-section of sparkling wines from 2013 (with the exception of Chilworth Manor) from the Vineyards of the Surrey Hills, or VOSH for short. This weekend also happens to be the first ever VOSH Summer Spectacular, with all five vineyards featured in this article hosting an array of events to engage with the English Wine-loving public.
As ever, my aim with these English Retrospective or English Vertical series articles is to explore the age-worthiness of English Wine. This particular feature felt like a bit more of a step into the unknown than usual, as two of the vineyards (Albury and Chilworth) are relatively young, and two of the other wines featured (Denbies BdN and Greyfriars BdN) were fairly early iterations of now well-established favourites in these winemakers’ ranges. Only High Clandon’s particular wine follows a path back to the previous decade; their first cuvée dates back to 2008.
Once again, though, with four of the wines having now matured for ten years since harvest, there was lots of quality and age-worthiness to be found. Albury’s Classic Cuvée 2013, their very first vintage sparkling wine, demonstrated remarkable freshness and composure. With its confidently oaked character, Greyfriars Blanc de Blancs 2013 felt remarkably like a sparkling interpretation of a good aged Burgundy – remarkable.
But the quality continued, with High Clandon’s ‘The Elysium’ Cuvée 2013 showing rich, yeasty, Champagne-like prowess. This wine retains the slight greenness of the 2013 vintage, and was the longest aged with approximately four years on lees before disgorgement in January 2018 – and then a further five and a half years under cork. Another quality offering was the Denbies Blanc de Noirs 2013. Also, feeling more on the mature side, with its diverse savoury cream cheese notes, there’s a crunchy acidity and cranberry punchiness that manages to keep it all in control.
More unusual was the Chilworth Manor Brut 2017, their first commercial vintage, which explains why a 2013 entry was not possible here. Based on my tasting of this vineyard’s offerings, they tend to have a preference for later harvest and a riper fruit expression. Interestingly, this manifested in a wine that, whilst being four years younger than the other wines, felt like one of the most mature and developed offerings in the line-up. Could this be a result of the wine being made from young, low-yielding vines?
Albury Estate Classic Cuvée 2013
Grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
This was Albury’s first vintage release sparkling (but not their first cuvée) with a blend of 2011 and 2012 being their first. I have fond memories of trying this wine at the vineyard, one of England’s few Organic and Biodynamic growers.
The nose on the Albury was beautifully refined, with almond croissant, baked apple, pear, lemon curd and a ripe, peachy richness.
To taste, this had very crisp lemon and green apple freshness that are typical of the 2013 vintage, as well as lovely layers of pastry and creamy development.
This wine is ageing exceptionally for a wine from young vines and the first vintage sparkling release from Albury.
High Clandon ‘The Elysium’ Cuvée 2013
Grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
As one of England’s smallest (just one acre) and most picturesque vineyards, this particular cuvée is a blend of 46% Chardonnay, 34% Pinot Noir and 20% Pinot Meunier.
‘The Elysium’ Cuvée had a very classic and elegant nose with lemon zest, biscuit and hazelnut with light notes of red apple and floral.
Again, the autolytic character of this wine showed on the palate, with complex layers of biscuit, brioche and nuttiness from the off. The fruit was soft and developed on the mid-taste, with a dry green fruit backbone.
At this stage in its development, the finish is a little short, however the complexity and structure of the High Clandon still stands out.
Chilworth Manor Brut 2017
Grapes: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay & Pinot Meunier
Chilworth Manor is the most recent planting in the Surrey Hills group, though the site sits on an estate with well over 1000 years of history. The first vineyards were planted there in 2013, and this Classic Cuvée was the estate’s first sparkling release.
This wine had a very distinctive nose with quite evolved, rich character and aromas of peach, dried strawberry and buttery brioche. It was both fruit forward, but also quite developed with savoury and yeasty notes.
To taste, this wine had quite a wide palate with peach, apricot and a slightly tropical note. There was also quite a deep, savoury, yeasty complexity and an overall profile that felt more mature than the 2013 wines.
Greyfriars Blanc de Blancs 2013
This wine has a lot of significance, being the first wine from Surrey to really put the region on the map. Greyfriars Vineyard dates back to 1989, but things only really got started when Mike and Hilary Wagstaff took over in 2010.
Being a confidently oaked interpretation of their 2013 Chardonnay, the Greyfriars had a profound nose, with vanilla spice, baked apple pudding and lemon pastry.
This was absolutely delicious, combining flavours of honey-roasted almonds, crisp green apple and citrus. This wine has always had quite a vinous quality – resembling an oaked Chardonnay in sparkling form.
I thoroughly enjoyed it and still have a couple of magnums left in storage for future enjoyment!
Denbies Cubitt Blanc de Noirs 2013
Grapes: Pinot Noir
Another significant wine in the Surrey Hills portfolio, this Blanc de Noirs was Denbies’ first vintage wine in this style, and comes from one of the largest single vineyard sites in the country – and certainly the largest in Surrey!
While the nose was quite delicate initially, it became more expansive with a bit of air and warmth in the glass. There were prominent aromas of white almond, red apple and dried cranberry, with a savoury hint of feta cheese and beeswax.
This is in a lovely place, with quite a broad array of flavours as it expands to cranberry and redcurrant and baked pear pudding.
The Denbies 2013 has previously had a tendency to veer more towards savoury, mature character. But this particular bottle retained a lovely red fruit streak. It is very promising, as both the 2014 and 2015 vintages that preceded it continued to improve on the formula established here.
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