Unbelievably, it’s already the end of May – and I’m now starting to just about get back into my Great British Wine groove again with another stellar selection of fresh new English Wine releases.
May kicked off with #GreatBritishRoséWeek, and I have sampled a generous selection of pink-hued wines throughout the month. I’ve included my highlights from those tasted, beginning with my May Wine of the Month: the Black Chalk Wild Rose II 2018. This second take on 2018 vintage sparkling rosé from Jacob Leadley and Zoë Driver in Hampshire is decadent and supple, whilst still retaining that Hampshire streak of crispness. Other pink-tinged highlights included the bold and characterful All Angels Rosé 2017, and my local favourite Albury Silent Pool Rosé 2021.
On the still wine side, a trio of textural and intriguing delights begins with Chris Wilson’s latest release: the Gutter & Stars The Good Mixer 2021. A blend of Ortega and Bacchus, this wine’s racy acidity is tempered by ripe and silky textures – it’s another big hit from the urban winery scene. Keeping things textural and distinctive is Castlewood Artefact Bacchus 2020, with skin contact and amphorae ageing. It’s striking and engaging, as is the Flint Silex Blanc 2021 – a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc – and my stand-out from a recent tasting with Flint.
Completing the round-up this month is another young release from Oastbrook, their Pinot Noir 2020. A fusion of pungent red berries and peppery spice, this wine will surely improve further in the bottle, but won’t be around for long.
Black Chalk Wild Rose II 2018
• WINE OF THE MONTH •
Grapes: Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay & Pinot Noir
Thanks to the bountiful vintage of 2018, Black Chalk decided to produce two wines each for both the Classic and Wild Rose labels. This second take is a blend of Pinot Meunier (47%), Chardonnay (32%) and Pinot Noir (21%).
The Wild Rose II was made with fruit sourced from a different vineyard to the fresher, leaner ‘I’ version, and the wine also underwent 80-90% malolactic fermentation.
The nose on this immediately appealed, with its candied cranberry, ripe cherry and dried rose petal prettiness, together with more developed notes of brioche and pastry as well as coconut shell!
The palate is plush and slender, more so than any other Hampshire rosé I’ve had before. But the fruit is still very much at the core, with a flurry of cherry, raspberry and a slight hint of preserved plum wine. This was a real stand-out for me – delightfully textured and thoroughly captivating throughout.
Gutter & Stars The Good Mixer ‘Blonde on Blonde’ Blanc 2021
Grapes: Bacchus & Ortega
There’s not been a wine from Gutter & Stars yet that I haven’t loved. This latest release, dubbed ‘Blonde on Blonde’, is a punchy mixture of hand-picked Ortega and Bacchus that was pressed and fermented together in fourth use American oak barrels.
The resulting wine has a pungent, vivid nose of lively tropical fruit, lime, grapefruit and pear.
To taste, it’s the raciness of the acidity that puckers the tastebuds, with lots of zesty citrus fruits as well as tangy tropics such as passion fruit and pineapple. There’s a suggestion of softness, perhaps a little pear and peach, but it’s the zest and freshness that comes through, with a slight hint of spice on the finish.
Castlewood Artefact Bacchus 2020
Castlewood feels like one of those undiscovered gems of English Wine. Outside of a core range of sparkling wines, the Devon winery collaborates with sommeliers and restaurateurs to produce a range of boundary-pushing wine.
Artefact is one of those wines: a skin contact Bacchus that is aged in clay amphorae from Tuscany. The nose is distinctive, with nettle, lime skin and wet slate.
To taste, this is much less floral than a lot of Bacchus, and instead presents a grassy fusion of nettle, citrus and pear, with a hint of melon and white pepper. There’s a fine texture that keeps the wine intriguing, and it’s something of a gentle giant in that regard.
All Angels Sparkling Rosé 2017
Grapes: Rondo, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris & Pinot Meunier
This is a a unique rosé blend of Rondo (54%), Chardonnay (28%), Pinot Noir (7%), Pinot Gris (7%) and Pinot Meunier (4%). The resulting wine is a shimmering deep copper hued rosé with a berry-laced nose of ripe strawberry, cherry and cassis, and hints of savoury and herb.
The palate continues in the vein of the nose: red berry forward with bags of ripe strawberry and raspberry. There’s a meatier mid-taste, perhaps a slight lick of tannin and that savoury tone that adds depth. I also picked up an interesting hint of black tea on the finish.
Rich, intense and different, this is a very food-friendly option. I thought this would match barbecue fare which is exactly what I had with this wine, and it excelled with its bountiful presence and textures.
Fint Silex Blanc 2021
Grapes: Chardonnay & Pinot Gris
“Always a bit of a moving beast” according to Flint’s winemaker, Ben Witchell, Silex Blanc started off as a Pinot-based wine in 2017, with Gris, Noir and Blanc. Aromatic varieties Bacchus and Solaris have also played their part in subsequent vintages. However, the 2021 Silex is stripped back to 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Blanc with a view to further differentiate the Bacchus and the Silex stylistically.
The Chardonnay was sourced from Essex’s Martin’s Lane Vineyard, whilst the Pinot Blanc is Ben’s own. The wine was made with 40% malo, 100% ferment in oak, and 100% whole bunch-pressed. 10% of the Chardonnay was fermented on skins with indigenous yeast for an orange wine-like effect.
With a nose of peach skin, orchard fruit, grilled lime and pineapple and a pinch of spiced orange, the Silex is once again hugely alluring, as is the lightly golden hue.
On the palate this is one of those wines that rewards patience. Given some air, and served just a few degrees below room temperature, Silex blossoms into a gentle giant. The promised peachiness and orange blossom welcomes like a warming hug, with the Chardonnay delivering a real stone fruit generosity. But it’s the tempered acidity and zesty lemon linearity that keeps this wine balanced and focussed, whilst a spiced ginger kick at the end keeps you salivating for another sip.
Albury Silent Pool Rosé 2021
Grapes: Pinot Meunier & Pinot Noir
In a cooler, leaner English Wine vintage there are a couple of styles of wine that I really gravitate towards. Still rosé is one of those styles, and what better place to start than a house favourite: Albury Silent Pool Rosé 2021.
Yields were low in 2021, but this rosé remains characterful and focussed with its blend of 55% Pinot Noir and 45% Pinot Meunier. Aromas are typically fresh with lemon and grapefruit, cranberry, cherry and cherry blossom.
On the palate there’s an initial burst of pink grapefruit and zesty lemon, with tangy cranberry and wild raspberry. The mid-taste is softer, with ripe cherry and hints of strawberry, whilst the finish lingers on grapefruit and rose petal. The lower ABV of 11% makes this a relatively guilt-free, and effortlessly drinkable, fresh rosé.
Oastbrook Pinot Noir 2020
Grapes: Pinot Noir
This is the inaugural Pinot Noir of the first vintage from America Brewer’s own vineyards. This is a youthful and expressive Pinot Noir that will benefit with a little more time in the bottle.
The colour is vibrant ruby red, with a red berry-laced nose of raspberry, cranberry and cherry, as well as a peppery spiced note.
To taste, this is one of those youthful, crunchy Pinots with vibrant, tangy red fruit. Cranberry, young cherry and lively raspberries are the dominant flavours here, but there’s also a softer ripe cherry note and a distinctive graphite and pepper note on the finish.
This month, John takes a look at ten wines from five of the top urban wineries in England.
John takes a look at six vintages of Flint Vineyard's textural Silex Blanc.
John takes a look at a selection of 2013 (and one 2017) sparkling wines from the Vineyards of the Surrey Hills.
For English Wine Week, John looks at a selection of diverse and innovative wines.
In the first of a double feature, John rounds up a selection of the best still English rosé wines from the 2022 vintage.
Stephen takes a look at a cross section of 2021 still wines from Norfolk.