Great British Wine Round-up September 2021

As the colder months approach, along with the English Wine harvest 2021, I’ve turned my attention this month to Blanc de Noirs. Made entirely from red grapes (Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier), these charismatic sparkling wines are typically richer and very food-friendly (see examples from Wiston, Ridgeview, Artelium and Furleigh Estate). But there’s also great versatility with this particular style of sparkling, with many producers favouring a fresh, clean fruit-forward expression that brings a generous and perhaps more crowd-pleasing flavour profile (see Raimes and Dunesforde for great examples of this). This month’s round-up explores both of these extremes and various shades in between, with Denbies, Brabourne and Greyfriars offering a different take.

It was hard to pick an overall wine of the month this time – there were so many great examples. Ultimately, I had to return to the brilliant Wiston ‘Blanc de Noir’ 2014, which I first tasted earlier this month at a rather intimate launch. This wine is not only a stand-out from a month of extensive English wine tasting, but it is one of my favourite wines of the year. Nevertheless, all nine of these wines are well worth seeking out, especially for those who want to explore this most expressive style of sparkling wine.

Wiston Blanc de Noir 2014

WINE OF THE MONTH

Grapes: Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
Region: Sussex

Following in the footsteps of one of my all-time favourite English sparkling wines, Dermot Sugrue and Wiston Estate have delivered one of the wines of the year with this extravagant ‘Blanc de Noir’ 2014. It’s made from a blend of 66% Pinot Noir and 34% Pinot Meunier that was fermented in five and six-year-old Burgundy barrels before ageing on lees for four and a half years.

On pouring, the golden tone of this wine radiates out of the glass with aromas of peach, sweet red apple, orange skin and crisp almond pastry, as well as the fragrance of that beautiful Burgundian oak.

The first word that comes to my mind when sipping is ‘luxurious’. Whilst the brisk, lively acidity that Dermot’s wines are famed for is ever-present, the sheer breadth and expansiveness of the palate is a joy to behold.

Raimes Blanc de Noirs 2018

Grapes: Pinot Meunier & Pinot Noir
Region: Hampshire

Raimes burst onto the scene in 2017 with their inaugural BdN 2013, and we were enamoured with the results. But, five vintages in, does this young expression of what is effectively their signature wine still impress? Absolutely!

The nose is of redcurrants, sweet red apples and peach with suggestions of pastry and lemon shortbread.

The palate is very commercially-minded and is fruit-forward, thanks to the fruits of the ripe 2018 vintage. But it’s perfectly judged, bringing forward a creamy generosity to balance the taut red berry and crisp apple flavours.

This is such a delicious and expressive wine and is a fantastic starting point for those looking to venture into the darker side of sparkling wine.

Denbies Cubitt Blanc de Noirs 2014

Grapes: Pinot Noir
Region: Surrey

This is a really grown-up and textured expression of Blanc de Noirs from Surrey’s Denbies Wine Estate. The Denbies had an impressive six years bottle ageing with a barrel-matured dosage for extra complexity.

The nose on this is really distinctive – it reminds me of winter! The smell is reminiscent of oranges with spices pricked into their skin. I love that quality, and it really complemented stone fruit and roasted almond notes.

To taste, again, there’s a lovely winter spiced note that stands out with orange peel and spiced roasted almonds. And there’s also plentiful fruit in the form of apricot, baked apple and peach.

This is a generous style of Blanc de Noirs, but it’s not cumbersome thanks to the brisk cut-through of English acidity.

Ridgeview Blanc de Noirs 2015

Grapes: Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
Region: Sussex

This continues to be my favourite wine from English Sparkling pioneers, Ridgeview, who blend their best Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier into this superb vintage wine in only the very best years.

The nose leads with red berries, orange blossom and ginger spice. In fact, there’s a real aromatic quality to this wine, its complex bouquet seasoned with winter spiced nuts and cherry.

The palate also delivers hugely on this wine; it feels like the perfect melding of the crunchy, fruit-forward styles and the more complex, savoury styles of Blanc de Noirs. Again, there’s a lightly floral note to this, and the initial crunchy apple flavours lead to plush, juicy apricots and creamy layers.

Dunesforde Blanc de Noir 2018

Grapes: Pinot Noir
Region: Yorkshire

This wine was quite a revelation at the recent IEWA 2021. Hailing from Yorkshire, this 475 bottle release is made from 100% Pinot Noir, with winemaking duties being handled by Halfpenny Green.

The nose is fragrant and open, with red apples, pear and peach skin, and light honeysuckle tones.

To taste, the crunchy apple flavours keep things clean and fresh, seasoned with suggestions of tangy cranberry.

This is a modern, clean expression of Blanc de Noirs, with a suggestion of creaminess and a peachy generosity.

Furleigh Blanc de Noirs 2015

Grapes: Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
Region: Dorset

Back on the meatier side of Blanc de Noirs, Dorset’s Furleigh Estate have delivered a gastronomic and food-friendly blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. This was another Gold Medal winner at the IEWA 2021.

The Furleigh is one of the more golden examples in the line-up, with an alluring nose of peach skin, nectarine and caramelized pastry.

The palate is superbly structured, beginning with brisk, crisp acidity before giving way to creamy stone fruit and biscuity layers. I really enjoyed the contrast between the lively acidity and the indulgent biscuity depth on this bottle from Furleigh.

Brabourne Blanc de Noirs 2017

Grapes: Pinot Noir
Region: Kent

A completely new name to me, Brabourne is based just outside of Ashford in Kent and they planted in 2015. This wine was made from a first harvest of Pinot Noir, with winemaking being handled by Oxney Organic Estate.

Aromatically, this Noirs has that signature red apple note, with floral hints and notes of ginger, cranberry and peach skin.

To taste, orchard fruits remain at the forefront, while riper peachy notes form on the mid-taste. The finish is very clean, with citrus peel and mineral notes, perhaps almost salty, and is overall very fresh and inviting.

Artelium Blanc de Noirs 2014

Grapes: Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
Region: Sussex

This is a blend of 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Pinot Meunier, and comes with an impressive 60 months on the lees. The fruit was sourced from Jenkyn Place in Hampshire, and Dermot Sugrue was on winemaking duties once again.

On the nose this is one of the more mature, savoury, intense, brooding style of Blanc de Noirs. There are aromas of poached pear, baked apple and almond cream croissant.

The palate also delivers complexity; this is a rich, expansive Blanc de Noirs that delivers ripe stone fruit and baked apple flavours with layers of savoury and pastry complexity.

The Artelium is very distinctive and rich, and it’s a wine that I would have a lot of fun with some meaty food pairings.

Greyfriars Cuvée X Blanc de Noirs 2017

Grapes: Pinot Noir
Region: Surrey

Launched to help celebrate ten years since Mike and Hilary Wagstaff took over Greyfriars, the new ‘X’ Blanc de Noirs 2017 is made from 100% Pinot Noir.

The nose is visceral and expressive, with aromas of red apple, ginger and aromatic spiced notes.

This is once again released with Greyfriars’ signature low dosage of 3g/l, which brings a tight, linear flavour profile in youth. 2017 was a more challenging vintage in much of England, and the fruit character here is verging more towards green orchard fruit, but what impressed me was the textural nutty/oaty textures and ginger biscuit complexity.

More Recent Blanc de Noirs Reviews:

Posted in Monthly Round-Up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.