Following on from a duo of rosé-focussed round-ups, I decided to direct my attention for English Wine Week to wines made from grapes other than Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. There are lots of exciting wines being made from all sorts of less talked about grapes, from the popular Bacchus to Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Ortega – also one shouldn’t overlook the oft-derided Rondo and Dornfelder on the red side.
My Wine of the Month is the Flint Bacchus Fumé 2022. I’ve long been a fan of oaked Bacchus, and this feels like one of Flint’s most accomplished wines to date. From here, I step through a diverse mixture of white grapes, with two textural and rich delights: Gutter & Stars ‘Fight for Power’ Ortega 2022 and Burn Valley Solaris 2021. Back to Bacchus, and we’ve got Castlewood’s distinctive Artefact Bacchus 2021, aged in amphorae. On the best value side, Balfour’s ‘The White’, just £12.49 in Majestic, provides a refreshing, Riesling-like fusion of Bacchus and Pinot Blanc. And who could forget Pinot Gris? I attended a brilliant ‘Pinot Pioneers’ tasting with Marasby last month, and both Oastbrook Pinot Gris 2022 and Stopham Pinot Gris 2022 stood out and called for a more thorough tasting.
Taking things in another direction, Knightor Aprèz Spritz comes in a can and is described as an ‘aromatised rose wine spritz’; its refreshing, classic rosé flavours are interweaved with botanicals of rosemary and spice. And let’s not forget English reds – a category that continues to impress and push the boundaries. Kinsbrook Vineyard recently launched their playful Kith label with ‘Chough au Vin’ 2022. Made from Rondo, this deep magenta and purple-hued wine feels like a Beaujolais Nouveau on steroids. I close on Winbirri Signature 2018 – more akin to a full-bodied Rioja and one of the finest examples of this great red that winemaker Lee Dyer has produced to date.
I hope that you enjoy this brilliant and diverse selection of wines. English Wine Week runs from 17th June until 25th June, so be sure to let me know below, or through social media, what you are all enjoying too!
Flint Bacchus Fumé 2022
• WINE OF THE MONTH •
If there’s one style that really elevates Bacchus to greatness, it’s oaked Bacchus. Flint has for some time experimented with this style, releasing limited runs of Bacchus Fumé to their Venn club members, but this 2022 is the first time the wine has received a mainline release.
The Bacchus was fermented and aged in oak barrels for six months, then aged a further five months in bottle without malolactic fermentation to preserve freshness.
On the nose, it’s a wild mixture of lime, cut grass, fresh herbs, eucalyptus and aromatic tropics, with a hint of spice and roasted almond.
To taste, it’s all about that classic Bacchus zing of lime and grapefruit initially, with pungent, tangy tropical fruit on the mid-taste and a lingering, almost smoky, nutty finish. Incredibly accomplished, this is up there with the best examples I’ve had.
Gutter & Stars ‘Fight for Power’ Ortega 2022
This is the first single variety Ortega from the Cambridge Windmill-based Gutter and Stars. The fruit was sourced from Oxfordshire and gently pressed before fermentation in barrel where it remained for a further eighteen weeks ageing on the lees.
The nose is colourful and fruit-forward, true to form for Ortega, with ripe pear, peach and nectarine aromas. There’s also a distinctive pear drop hint in there.
The palate combines classic, crunchy English acidity and citrus fruit flavours with a much more fleshy, soft stone fruit mid-taste. There’s a supple texture to the wine, and just the hint of oak on the finish to add intrigue. Overall, another textural delight from Gutter and Stars.
Burn Valley Black Label Solaris 2021
I have to say, our editor Stephen piqued my interest in this Solaris, when I read his recently posted article looking at a challenging but successful wine vintage in Norfolk.
This wine has a lovely golden hue, an engaging nose of ripe buttered peach (almost buttery, caramelised peach tarte tatin) with mango, and hints of spice and minerality.
The palate is bold and punchy (with 14% ABV), with wonderful stone fruit and poached pear ripeness. There’s a lemony citrus cut-through and a finish of spice and flint. There’s also a waxy, textural note too. It almost comes across as something like a Sémillon or a Rhône white with all that texture and presence.
This wine is so sublime it almost feels like witchcraft – what a wonderful example of a much-underrated grape.
Castlewood Artefact Bacchus 2021
Back to Bacchus, this is another really unique and expressive wine. This is skin contact Bacchus (with twenty-one days maceration on skins) that was fermented and aged on lees in Tuscan amphorae and was bottled with no fining or filtration.
Much like the previous vintage, this is a wine packed full of curiosity and intrigue, beginning with a herbaceous, grassy nose, aromas of toasted hay and dried citrus peels.
The palate opens with a surprising tropical fruit salad note – quite juicy and round, before a firmer, almost pithy citrus texture and light black tea tannin hint set in.
Certainly more in the orange wine vein (one of few Bacchus I’ve tried that had a discernible colour), this wine will reward the curious with its textual intricacies.
Stopham Pinot Gris 2022
Grapes: Pinot Gris
Stopham Pinot Gris has been a consistent entry in my English Wine journey since the very start of Great British Wine. Over the years, it’s won countless awards, particularly at the IEWA, and I reacquainted myself with it this month at both London Wine Fair and Marasby’s White Pinot Pioneers tasting.
While only recently being bottled, the nose is fresh and fragrant, with a mixture of lemon and lime, peach, passion fruit, and light grass hints.
I loved the balance of ripe stone fruit and pear with the zesty, tangy citrus, tropical fruit cut-through, and crisp acidity.
A few of the Gris at the Marasby tasting felt too concentrated and fleshy, but this particular wine was bang on stylistically from a producer who nails it repeatedly.
Oastbrook Pinot Gris 2022
Grapes: Pinot Gris
This Oastbrook Pinot Gris stood out at the Marasby Pinot Pioneers and the Sussex producer also produced my Still Wine of the Month in April.
This is likely the best vintage of Pinot Gris from Oastbrook to date, with its fragrant nose of tropical fruit salad, nectarine skin, lime and grassy herbaceousness.
To taste, there’s this beautiful balance between tangy tropical fruit, zesty lemon and lime, fleshy peach and nectarine, along with an underlying fresh green grass note.
Overall, this is another absolutely delightful Gris.
Balfour ‘The White’ 2021
Grapes: Pinot Blanc & Bacchus
This is a new ‘entry level’ white from Balfour Winery in Kent, and is a playful blend of Bacchus and Pinot Blanc.
On the nose, it’s got vivid aromas of lemon, lime, melon and peach, with mineral hints and subtle floral tones.
To taste, my first thought was that it was quite unexpectedly similar to a fresh, young Riesling. With its Intense acidity, crisp lemon bursts and crunchy orchard fruit, it’s bursting and bright, but there’s also a generous, almost oily texture to it on the mid-taste.
This is incredibly satisfying and beautifully crisp – perfect for sipping in the sun or pairing with barbecued seafood.
Knightor Aprèz Spritz
This was a delicious summery surprise in a can from Cornwall’s Knightor Winery. Essentially it’s a rosé wine spritz, but also aromatised with botanicals including zests of lemon and orange, rosemary and fennel.
The palate is fleshy and light, combining lemon and orange zest, cranberry and raspberry with hints of spice and rosemary.
It’s very easy to drink, which the low ABV of 5.5% helps with, and there’s some sweetness there, tempered by a bitter orange finish.
This was super refreshing both straight out of the can, and over ice with a nice slice of orange to enhance the citrus. I’m going to be ordering more of these for the summer.
Kith ‘Chough au Vin’ 2022
Kith is a new second line of wines from Kinsbrook in Sussex, continuing a departure from their previous safe and traditional branding and winemaking to a fun, playful and characterful style. Joe Beckett describes Kith as a “funky, cool, mischievous younger sister of our flagship KIN range”, and I can see why.
This is 100% Rondo, and yes, that normally sends alarm bells ringing in my ears after many a poor example of this much-maligned grape. However, this wine is going to turn heads, and not only because of its deep, intense magenta and purple hues in the glass.
The nose is bursting with intensely vibrant dark cherry and blackcurrant aromas, with hints of red rose petals and earth.
To taste, the wine’s fruit-forward nature sings, with bold, vibrant cherry and black fruit flavours partnering good acidity and a fine, light tannin. It’s not an overly complex red, but the label should have already suggested it’s not trying to be. What this is, though, is a thoroughly enjoyable and playful red.
Winbirri Signature 2018
This is Lee Dyer’s flagship red wine. Made from 100% Dornfelder, it’s aged for eighteen months in an equal split of new and old American oak barrels. Lee’s use of oak is likened by himself to Rioja, and upon tasting the wines it’s clear to see some similarities.
On the nose the Signature has vibrant aromas of blackcurrant and blackberry, with vanilla, toasted spices, and a bit of aged leather.
To taste, the intensity of the tangy red fruit stands out, with underlying ripe black cherry. There’s a bright acidity, firm but smooth tannin, and a finish of vanilla and spiced oak.
Few English red wines reach the full-bodied depth and complexity that this wine does. It has to be tried to be believed!
In part two of the April round-up, John tastes through seven diverse sparkling rosé 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.
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.
John tastes through seven vintages of Balfour Brut Rosé, including the newly released 2008 Archive Collection.