My final round-up of the year is a collection of unique, distinctive and textural sparkling wines that are all relatively new releases. From outstanding blends to delectable rosés and a trio of Blanc de Noirs, I feel these are all excellent examples of English Sparkling Wine that can both be enjoyed solo or alternatively paired with seasonal food and flavours.
The Hundred Hills Hillside No.3 2019 is my Wine of the Month – the latest in a long string of brilliant releases from the Oxfordshire-based winemaker and a real must-try. On the pink side, Busi Jacobsohn Rosé Extra Brut 2019 and Libertine Rosé Brut NV offer two remarkably different but very food-friendly takes. The Blanc de Noirs take us to Dorset, Sussex and Hampshire, with the latter two being made from 100% Pinot Meunier. Langham Blanc de Noirs Pinot Noir 2019 was another stand-out this month, while The Grange White from Black 2018 and Coolhurst The Miller’s Tale Blanc de Noirs 2018 followed keenly with their expressive Meunier individuality.
Hundred Hills Hillside No.3 2019
• WINE OF THE MONTH •
Grapes: Chardonnay & Pinot Noir
This is a rather brilliant expression from Oxfordshire’s Hundred Hills who, thanks in part to the cooler vintage of 2019, left the fruit to develop for nearly 120 days before harvesting. It’s a blend of the ripest and latest pick of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, delivering an opulent and textured wine.
I found the nose immediately appealing, opening with candied apples and fresh citrus fruit, with suggestions of plum and white peach and a sprinkling of toast and crushed seashell.
The palate is beautifully structured, initially showing some of the tightness expected of a young 2019 English Sparkling release. But that tension releases with a burst of crisp orchard fruit and citrus, then softening with a supple mousse, yellow fruits and even hints of tropical fruit.
I most enjoyed the finish, a lengthy stay of salted lemon and saline minerality. This wine is crystalline throughout, but with pockets of generosity and intrigue that makes every sip one to savour.
Langham Pinot Noir Blanc de Noirs 2019
Grapes: Pinot Noir
This is another striking and brilliant wine from Langham. It was made from 100% Pinot Noir that was fermented in old oak barrels and aged on lees for two years before being disgorged with zero dosage – a first for a Langham sparkling wine.
This wine is classic Langham on the nose, with red apple and almond aromas as well as hints of baked orchard fruit and integrated spice.
The palate is bracing and dry initially but has a real softness thanks to the supple mousse and layers of ripe apple, as well as hints of peach and honey-roasted almonds.
I’m amazed at just how drinkable this wine is at zero dosage; it’s testament to both the vineyard team and the winemaker’s skill, and results in an incredibly stylish and distinctive wine.
Busi Jacobsohn Rosé 2019
Grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
I was curious how Busi Jacobsohn would follow up their incredibly successful first vintage of Rosé Extra Brut (the 2018) given that 2019 was an overall cooler and leaner year. But this latest vintage doesn’t shy away at all.
The colour is immediately appealing with its gentle peach tones, and the nose recalls cranberry, raspberry and red apple with hints of candy floss and rhubarb.
The palate is racy and crunchy – emphasizing that Extra Brut label with its 6.3g/l dosage. It leads with bags of freshness and tangy, youthful red fruit with crunchy red apples, but there’s also a warmth and a suggestion of ripe cherry that adds structure, together with the hints of savoury and rhubarb.
Another very considered release from Busi Jacobsohn. We tried it with prawn gyoza, which was a superb pairing, but I think it could also be great with a classic prawn cocktail starter on Christmas Day.
Coolhurst The Miller’s Tale Blanc de Noirs 2018
Grapes: Pinot Meunier
Coolhurst continue to intrigue and impress with their different expressions of red grape-based sparkling wine. This latest release is their first Blanc de Noirs, and first wine made from 100% Pinot Meunier.
It’s always fascinating tasting Meunier in isolation – the grape can be quite nuanced, perhaps a gentle giant with some deep savoury textures. And this Coolhurst, while still young, is one of those wines.
As with the other wines included in this article, this is firmly rooted in the drier style of sparkling, with a citrus-laced palate of grapefruit and green apple.
But again, it’s the journey this wine takes you on that impresses – there’s a suitably generous weight, with some lovely baked fruit pudding richness that suggests the wine will have strong festive food-pairing credentials.
The Grange White from Black 2018
Grapes: Pinot Meunier
The third Blanc de Noirs in my line-up continues to demonstrate just how versatile the style is. This is another first – the debut Blanc de Noirs from The Grange in Hampshire, and, like the Coolhurst, it’s made from 100% Pinot Meunier.
This wine has that classic Hampshire freshness on the nose: it’s very fragrant with orchard fruit, waves of citrus and hints of cherry pastries.
The palate is initially racy, with a focus on citrus and chalky minerality. What I really enjoyed about the The Grange was the softness. The bubbles are fine and smooth and there’s a lovely generosity and warmth to the fruit on the mid-taste, and almost a honeyed tropical fruit note. The finish is more red fruit-led, and closes off this thoroughly enjoyable release.
Libertine Rosé Brut NV
Grapes: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
The Libertine Rosé is a blend of Essex Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and a collaboration between two masters of wine, John Atkinson and Liam Steevenson.
This is a really interesting contrast to the fresh and fragrant Busi-Jacobsohn. The nose is a mixture of balsamic strawberries and raspberries, with some reductive notes and a hint of fennel.
The palate has a rawness to it, with lots of wild raspberry and cranberry and a firm, dry presence. However, the mid-taste is quite full, with candied cranberry and riper strawberry flavours as well as an underlying savoury edge.
Again, this feels like it was designed to be enjoyed with food: I think it would be perfect with seasonal seafood platters.
John takes a look at a selection of still and sparkling English Chardonnay.
The first round-up of the year sees John tasting a diverse selection of still and sparkling wine new releases from across the country.
Stephen visits The Grange in Hampshire for the launch of their new winery in time for harvest 2022.
Fran heads down to Dorset to raise a glass or two of the best of Langham Estate as they plant their latest vineyard.
John takes a look at a selection the latest and greatest English sparkling releases for English Wine Week.
A belated kick-off to the 2022 monthly round-ups sees John look at a selection of the latest and greatest still and sparkling English wines.