Once again, busy work and family life have kept me from delivering as many English Wine updates as I’d liked – but that hasn’t stopped me from tasting some magnificent new releases in the last couple of months. This October round-up features six textural beauties: four sparkling wines and two still wines.
All Angels Classic Cuvée 2015 (£40 – All Angels) is taking the spot as Wine of the Month. This wine revels in its longer than usual lees age whilst combining all that development and richness with brisk acidity and wonderfully precise fruit flavours. It’s the most accomplished release from the increasingly promising Berkshire producer to date.
Another stand-out this month was Exton Park’s long-awaited Pinot Meunier Rosé Block 4 (£95 – Exton Park). This bronzed beauty is a complex and textural delight with its mature red berry and underlying savoury tones. Its price will restrict this wine’s accessibility, but curious tasters will be rewarded with a unique, sensory adventure. Staying in Hampshire, this month’s best English Wine buy is the latest bottling of Louis Pommery England Brut (£22.49 – Majestic Wine). This wine over-delivers at this price and is the most balanced and structured release from the Champagne-connected estate to date.
My final sparkling wine this month is the Balfour Blanc de Blancs 2018 (£40 – Balfour) which delivers an elegant embrace with its bright, beaming freshness and crunchy orchard fruit purity. To close out and keep things textural, the delightful Albury Organic Linda’s Pinot 2020 (£25.00) returns and captivates, while the new name of Penn Croft Bacchus 2021 (£21 – Penn Croft) delivers a stand-out expression of England’s most successful still white wine grape.
All Angels Classic Cuvée 2015
• WINE OF THE MONTH •
Grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier & Pinot Gris
One of my favourite aspects of following English Wine is that there is always something surprising around the corner to discover. Berkshire isn’t the most talked about region in England, but All Angels over in Enborne have been quietly making a name for themselves over the last couple of years.
Take this brand new Classic Cuvée 2015, a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Gris that has spent six years on lees. The golden colour of the wine sets the stage for indulgence, and the nose doesn’t disappoint with its fusion of citrus zest, English orchard fruit and peach skin.
To taste, the racy freshness of the 2015 vintage commands attention. There are crunchy apples and zippy lemon with bursting acidity, but that’s paired with an opulent softness as well as ripe, peachy stone fruit flavours.
This has significantly more lees age than many of the more well-known English sparkling wines out there – and it’s hugely successful at standing out from an increasingly ‘young’ crowd of English Classic Cuvées.
Exton Park Pinot Meunier Rosé Block 4
Grapes: Pinot Meunier
The colour is more copper than rosé – and whilst the base vintage is undeclared, the wine’s colour, and the indication of significant time under cork, suggest that this wine has more age than some of the other English Meunier examples out there.
The nose is complex and nuanced, beginning with the expected cranberry, with hints of cherry and rose, but also more complex notes of ginger biscuit and white chocolate, as well as a distinctly savoury, perhaps even balsamic edge.
Winemaker Corinne Seely’s signature no-Malo approach stands out in the wine’s initial briskness. This Meunier has a slender profile, bordering on lean, that expands more and more with time in the glass and less chill. Underlying cranberry and raspberry flavours remain, but the deeper savoury tones, the hints of fennel, ginger and orange zest, take hold.
This wine plays into Exton Park’s food-friendliness. It’s not a wine for everyone, which is reflected in its price, but I loved it. Exton Park suggests pairing with cured Jamón Ibérico, and I can’t think of a more perfect match.
Louis Pommery England Brut
Grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
I recently had the pleasure of returning to the Pinglestone Estate in Alresford, the home of Pommery in Hampshire, to catch up with the team, pick some delicious Pinot Noir and sample their latest Cuvée.
This latest bottling is based on the warm 2018 vintage with 15% reserve wine, and is a blend of 55% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and 15% Pinot Meunier with 8g/l dosage.
Light gold in hue, the nose is a fragrant mixture of lemon, red apple, pear and floral notes, with suggestions of peach and croissant.
To taste, it’s all crunchy apples and zippy citrus up front but nicely structured with a peach and pear mid-taste. There’s also a real softness to the bubbles and a light buttery brioche complexity, with hints of minerality on the finish. It’s the most accomplished release from Pommery so far – and there’s lots more to come from this Champagne-backed estate!
Balfour Blanc de Blancs 2018
This is only the third Blanc de Blancs vintage to be released by Balfour, following on from 2014 and 2010, both of which were also warm vintages.
This nose on this 2018 release focuses on the fresh, clean notes of lemon zest and green apple, with hints of Asian pear and yuzu.
The palate continues that cleanness with zippy, crunchy citrus and green fruit freshness. There’s a real saline, mineral edge to this wine, but just when you think it’s all quite tight and linear, there’s a lovely suggestion of roundness and softness on the mid-taste.
The finish also holds with hints of salted lemon and minerality. As with previous releases, this will benefit significantly from a little more time in the bottle. Still, there’s a purity and refined elegance that makes it immediately appealing right now.
Albury Organic Linda’s Pinot 2020
Grapes: Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
As something of a symbol for the family approach at Albury, owner Nick Wenman planted three rows of Pinot Gris at his vineyard in Albury for his wife, Linda. This wine is named after Linda, taking her Gris and blending it with Pinots Meunier and Noir.
Albury make a few different limited-release wines, but this has been something of a favourite of mine. The nose is filled with pear, red apple, hints of peach skin, and suggestions of ginger spice.
The palate is crisp and bright, focussing on pear and apple, but again there are fulfilling hints of peach. I found this wine had a light suggestion of oak spice, bringing a subtle texture. Grab it while you can!
Penn Croft Bacchus 2021
Penn Croft is the primary wine label of the recently established Itasca winery in Hampshire. The winery is headed by Ben Smith, formerly of Oxney Estate, and this intelligently made Bacchus introduces texture through partial oak ferment (25%) and partial Malolactic Fermentation (10%).
The nose on this wine already suggests a refined, grown-up experience, with its fragrant citrus zest fusion, coastal breeze and light herbaceous notes.
To taste, the Penn Croft Bacchus once again tickles the tastebuds with its lively zesty energy, and seasoning of salty minerality and white pepper.
This wine is all about that salty minerality – I’ve not had many examples of Bacchus like this, but it’s a style that I enjoy over the more floral, fruit-forward styles.
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