English Vertical Series: Digby Vintage Reserve Brut

I recently attended a special celebration marking ten years of Digby Fine English. The event was a multi-faceted celebration – it’s ten years since Digby released their first wine, this year Digby swept the floor at the WineGB Awards 2023 (four trophies won!), and it’s also the year that sees them release their first ever Blanc de Blancs (more on that later in the week). The ever-charismatic Trevor Clough, co-founder of Digby, hosted an intimate tasting that took us right back to the producer’s origins with a mini vertical tasting.

I had forgotten that Trevor was likely the first person in the English Wine Industry that I first met, years before the formation of Great British Wine. He launched the 2009 Vintage Reserve Brut in Selfridges in 2013, and was often found in the prestigious Oxford Street store, pouring the wine and capturing the minds of discerning drinkers. That’s when I first met Trevor – at a time when I was a nonentity in the industry. Yet his charisma, his eye for image and brand, and, most importantly, the wine itself struck a chord with me. I’ve followed Digby’s journey more closely since I started GBW in 2015 and have previously named two of their vintage releases ‘Wine of the Month’ in my English Wine Round-Up series. That included the multi-trophy-winning Vintage Reserve Brut 2013, which I hailed as WOTM back in May 2021, two years before that same wine dominated the annual Industry Awards.

Opening the evening, Trevor explained that “It all started with a hunch, rather than intuition”, but then continued: “If we are going to give up our day jobs, it’s got to be bloody good… it had to be pure and had to be confidently English.” Perhaps most crucial to the increasing success of Digby, Trevor exclaimed: “There are many ingredients, but perhaps the one we talk least about is time.” That the current vintage, the 2013, is now ten years old but still exhibiting unparalleled freshness and precision shows just how well the Digby approach has paid off: “Patience can lead to amazing things in the glass, but you need the very best grapes to begin with.”

The three vintages tasted, 2009, 2010 and 2013, all demonstrated the racy, invigorating freshness that one has come to expect from Digby. They all also have a similar make-up variety-wise, being Chardonnay-dominant with approximately a third of the two Pinots in the blend. The dosage of the three bottles was also consistent at 8g/l, but the vintage and the approach to ageing (lees vs. cork time) brought about significant stylistic nuances. The medium-yielding 2009 harvest brought about big concentration and very ripe fruit, supporting savoury integration from ten years of ageing under cork. Meanwhile, the high-yielding, linear 2010 is forever young, balancing saline minerality and tense green fruit with the brioche and lemon curd warmth that six years on lees brings. The 2013 feels like it takes the best elements of, again, a medium-yielding vintage but demonstrates the juxtaposition of a high-acid vintage with nearly ten years of sumptuous lees ageing.

Trevor has worked with much-decorated winemaker Dermot Sugrue since day one, and while Dermot has chosen to focus on his own wines, he remains a key part of the Digby journey. An exciting next chapter awaits for Digby, and it’s one I’m certainly going to follow just as closely as I’ve followed these first ten years.

More detailed tasting notes and technical information of the three vintages follow below. I’ve also found online links to purchase the older vintages, which are available in very limited quantities now.

Digby Vintage Reserve Brut 2009

Grapes: 65% Chardonnay, 17.5% Pinot Noir, 17.5% Pinot Meunier
Date Disgorged: October 2013
Dosage: 8g/l

With nearly ten years on cork and three on the lees, this wine, the beginning of the Digby journey, poured with a radiant golden hue. Trevor described 2009 as a medium vintage with ripe fruit and high concentration.

The nose was mature and rich, with baked apple, dried peach and honeysuckle, as well as hints of brioche and toffee apple.

Despite its age, the ’09 had a broad, expressive fruit flavour profile, crunchy orchard fruit and citrus, and softer stone fruit tones. This still has a wonderful poise, lifted by nutty, biscuity complexities.

Digby Vintage Reserve Brut 2010

Grapes: 65% Chardonnay, 18% Pinot Noir, 17% Pinot Meunier
Date Disgorged: May 2017
Dosage: 8g/l

2010 was a bigger yielding year, which brings a certain linearity to the fruit and the wine’s energy but also makes it ideal for extended ageing. This had twice the amount of time on lees (approximately 6 years), as well as another six under cork.

This had a noticeably fresher, more vibrant nose than the ’09, despite being only one year younger. Again, the fruit was at the forefront, with more of a green apple, pear and lemon peel fusion, together with mineral and bready notes.

Brilliantly focussed, the immediacy of the green orchard fruit and lemon curd enlivens the tastebuds. There’s the warmth of peach and brioche on the mid-taste, as well as saline and toasted sourdough complexities throughout.

Digby Vintage Reserve Brut 2013

Grapes: 65% Chardonnay, 17.5% Pinot Noir, 17.5% Pinot Meunier
Date Disgorged: January 2023
Dosage: 8g/l

While the ‘baby’ of the lineup, this already has incredibly impressive ageing credentials, having spent nearly nine and a half years under cork. Vintage-wise, it was quite similar to 2009 in terms of yield, but this vintage also followed on from the ill-fated 2012 vintage in England.

It’s no surprise that this wine has won so much acclaim – the nose brings about harmonious orchard fruit-tinged aromas together with indulgent brioche, croissant and pastry richness. It’s all so incredibly alluring.

The palate remains brisk and fresh up-front – that signature Digby purity of fruit and expressive citrus explosions are supported by a full, rich croissant broadness. This is a racy little bottle, but it also delivers indulgence and finesse that really demonstrates the cohesion that extended lees ageing can bring a sparkling wine.

Posted in English Vertical Series.

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