You may have noticed that Great British Wine has been rather quiet lately, and that’s because I’ve been preoccupied with moving house. Now just about settled, I’m ready to get fully stuck in with the waves of exciting new English wines that are arriving this summer. However, I’m still located in Surrey, so it seems somewhat appropriate to celebrate that with a local Wine of the Month: the delicious High Clandon Euphoria Cuvée 2016 Prestige Vintage Brut (£39.00). This superbly structured sparkling was the stand-out wine during a ‘Vineyards of the Surrey Hills’ tasting I hosted last month for English Wine Week.
Another highlight from the last month of English Wine adventures is the Balfour Blanc de Noirs 2018 (£35.00). It’s the first Blanc de Noirs from Balfour Hush Heath, and I headed down to the winery last month for an informative tour and tasting which focussed on fruit selection from the estate’s many different vineyard plots. The wine is a celebration of youth, but is also pleasingly complex and textured.
It’s been a great month for still wines too: I’ve covered the 2020 vintages of Simpsons Rabbit Hole Pinot Noir (£25.99) and Roman Road Chardonnay (£25.99). Both of these wines feel like a valiant follow-up to the award-winning 2018 vintages and show a lot of promise in youth. Talking of promise, the first still wines from Artelium Wine Estate are here, and they are delicious. As part of a trio of inaugural releases, both the Rosé 2020 (£18.00) and Chardonnay 2020 (also £18.00) offer bright, crisp expressions with some beautifully precise and expressive fruit notes. Keeping things stylish and playful, and rounding off this month’s round-up, is another first: Black Chalk’s Dancer In Pink Rosé 2020 (£19.00) proved to be a perfect summer rosé and the ideal wine to accompany my writing of this intro during a heatwave weekend with temperatures reaching above 30ºC. The sun has returned at least – so get out outside and get a glass of English wine in your hands!
High Clandon Euphoria Cuvée 2016 Prestige Vintage Brut
• WINE OF THE MONTH •
Grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
This newly-released Euphoria Cuvée 2016 is another superb vintage from High Clandon. Situated in a picturesque, hand-manicured vineyard, High Clandon is hosting their annual ‘Art in the Vineyard’ exhibition this month until the 1st August.
The 2016 is a blend of 57% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and 13% Pinot Meunier, with the lowest dosage to date of 7g/l. Its nose is complex and grown-up, with aromas of sweet apples, white peach and almond croissant.
To taste, there’s a brisk, clean citrus bite and crunchy, juicy apples that soften to peach and lemon shortbread. The lingering finish of roasted nuts and pastry leaves a lasting impression. Once again, the structure is impeccable.
Balfour Blanc de Noirs 2018
Grapes: Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
Last month I had the pleasure of attending the launch of Balfour’s first Blanc de Noirs. It was a chance to reconnect with a winery I hadn’t visited in person since 2016, and I was taken aback by how much progress has been made. Stunning facilities aside, there was a real sense of place, as we visited multiple sites in the vineyard, including ‘Foxridge’, dubbed as the best site for Pinot Noir within the Estate.
This Blanc de Noirs 2018 is made predominantly from Pinot Noir (74%) from the Foxridge vineyard, with just over a quarter Pinot Meunier (26%). It impressed right out of the bottle, with its true Blanc de Noirs golden hues and expressive, youthful nose of cranberry, tangerine, fennel and ginger.
Both complex, yet composed and joyous, this Noirs has it all. The generous dosage (11g/l) softens the youthful crispness, with a fusion of tangy red berries and orange and lemon citrus. There’s an enveloping, peachy generosity that leads to a mineral finish with herbaceous suggestions – outstanding and oh-so-drinkable.
Artelium Meunier Rosé Twenty Twenty
Grapes: Pinot Meunier
Artelium is one of the new breed of English Wine producers that means business right away. Their first sparkling wines impressed us last year, and this rosé, made from Pinot Meunier with a dash of Pinot Noir, is the first of a trio of inaugural still wines.
With its pale salmon-skin hue, this wine has a blossoming nose of cherry blossom, grapefruit zest, cranberry and raspberry.
The palate is joyous, fruity and refreshing, with bursts of tangy red berries interspersed with crisp citrus, a touch of white pepper and perhaps even a hint of pear drops.
It’s a rosé calling for the summer, which as I write this review, looks like it is has finally returned!
Artelium Chardonnay Twenty Twenty
Continuing the previous wine’s playful and energetic nature, this Chardonnay is unoaked and made from fruit from West and East Sussex.
The nose is bright and fresh, with a fusion of citrus zest, crisp apples and light flurries of fleshy tropical fruit.
To taste, the Chardonnay continues the playful nature that the nose suggested. There is brisk, crisp acidity and crunchy orchard fruit flavours, with the zing of tangy pineapple and rounder white peach flavours.
Pleasing mineral notes and lemon curd on the finish conjure thoughts of both Chablis and New World Chardonnay.
Black Chalk Dancer in Pink Rosé 2020
Grapes: Pinot Noir, Pinot Précoce & Pinot Gris
I just can’t get enough of English Rosé at the moment. This bottle was opened to cool down and refresh on a particularly hot Saturday, and is made from a blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Précoce and Pinot Gris.
Delicate pink and Provençal in colour, this first still wine from Black Chalk entertains with a nose of cherry, raspberry, cranberry and citrus.
The palate is plush and ripe, full of ripe strawberries, raspberry and fleshy, fruity peach notes. It’s both fruit-forward and smooth, but always has that tingling English acidity to fall back on. Another glass, please!
Simpsons Roman Road Chardonnay 2020
Following up on the outstanding, multi-award-winning 2018 vintage was always going to be hard, and the 2019 vintage from Simpsons was not quite the smash-hit we had hoped for. The 2020, while young, looks like a spectacular return to form.
The nose on the RR20 immediately draws you in with its ripe apple and peach, hints of butterscotch and toasted spice, as well as tangerine skin and flinty mineral hues.
To taste, crisp acidity and crunchy apples up-front lead to softer waves of peach and suggestions of honey as the nose promised. There’s quite a clean, mineral finish with lingering spice and smoke. The oak is prominent, but it doesn’t overshadow the ripe fruit.
I think the foundations are in place for another age-worthy Chardonnay, but that’s not to say that it’s not drinking nicely already.
Simpsons Rabbit Hole Pinot Noir 2020
Grapes: Pinot Noir
This was the wine that I was most looking forward to from the 2020 range, as while I felt that the 2019 was a bit disappointing, the memory of tasting the 2018 for the first time, and being blown away, still remains fresh in my mind. Is the 2020 Rabbit Hole the follow-up I have been waiting for?
Boy, this did not disappoint. There’s a vibrant, intense nose of cherry, red roses, raspberry and even a hint of dark fruit or winter berry. Again, the oak is restrained; there’s suggestions of spice, but bags of cracked black pepper.
The vibrancy continues on the palate, with a peppery, punchy fusion of tangy red berries, hints of blackberry, spice and grip. It’s drinking superbly in youth, and one can only imagine how it’s going to develop with time.
This is a stellar return to form, and a wine that I’m already salivating at the prospect of revisiting.
This month's round-up include some highlights from English Rosé week as well as a selection of new still wine releases.
The new Balfour 2022 Winemakers' Collection range sees father and son winemakers Owen and Fergus Elias go off-piste with three unique and textural wines.
A look at the top new English red wines, as well as a retrospective look at a duo of favourite English Pinot Noir.
John has turned his attention to English Chardonnay in both still and sparkling form for this month's round-up.
With the colder months approaching, John takes a look at nine diverse and delicious English Blanc de Noirs.
Stephen tours seven Kentish winemakers in a day and looks at the region's approach to wine tourism.