Catching up after a busy summer of travel and work, this month I’ve brought together a selection of deliciously different still 2022 English wines as well as a trio of vibrant new English Sparkling releases. On the still side, Battersea’s Vagabond has really been impressing me lately. Their diverse range is consistently textural and delicious, but it’s their Chardonnay 2022 that is the jewel in the crown. Denbies Orange Solaris 2022 has also impressed – I can’t think of another English wine like it, with its deep, ripe tropical fruit contrasting with brilliantly dry and tannic textures. No stranger to Great British Wine, Balfour’s Fergus Elias has served up one of the best Bacchus of the vintage in his Liberty’s Bacchus 2022, while relative newcomer Radlow Hundred impressed with their Rosé 2022.
On the sparkling side, Busi Jacobsohn are back again with another big hitter. Their first Blanc de Blancs, 2018 vintage, continues in the estate’s food-friendly, elegant, fruit-pure vein. County-mates Everflyht’s second vintage of Rosé de Saignée impressed with its now drier expression whilst retaining those pleasing, vibrant red fruit hues. And my third sparkling selection, also hailing from Sussex, is the latest Roebuck Classic Cuvée which combines a generous fruit-forward profile with deeper savoury undertones.
Vagabond Chardonnay 2022
• WINE OF THE MONTH •
Region: London / Essex
Charismatic winemaker Jose Quintana has quietly been working away over the last couple of years at the Vagabond winery in Battersea, and it’s his 2022 vintage wines, of which there are many, that are really making a name for him. This Chardonnay is the standout for me – made with Burgundy clone (277) from Clayhill that has been wild-fermented and matured in old Burgundy barrels. Jose’s hands-off approach means that there has been no chaptalisation, deacidification or any other additions in the winemaking process.
The resulting wine is beautifully golden in colour, with a beautiful nose of orange blossom, ripe red apple, pear and light apricot, as well as a dry hay note and a hint of vanilla.
The palate is wonderfully textural, beginning with bursting, crunchy orchard fruit and citrus flavours, but there’s a deep nutty, oaty texture that entertains throughout the involving experience this wine offers. The finish is very lengthy, with lingering smoke, zest, and hints of almond/marzipan – truly outstanding and a must-try English Chardonnay.
Busi Jacobsohn Blanc de Blancs 2018
Busi Jacobsohn has been an estate I’ve watched go from strength to strength, and after last year’s outstanding Blanc de Noirs 2018, they have followed up with a bountiful Blanc de Blancs from the same vintage, and it’s every bit as captivating.
The nose is a Chardonnay-lover’s dream, with ripe orchard fruit, peach and even some tropical hints (it’s that 2018 warmth again), as well as doughy complexities and hints of vanilla brioche.
The palate has a refined crunch, with bursting, zesty acidity which sits on top of the promised ripe, lush apple and peach roundness. The dosage is bang on at 6g/l, letting the vibrant fruit sing whilst the lingering yeasty, bready notes add structure.
Denbies Orange Solaris 2022
Continuing the Denbies renaissance – this Orange Solaris 2022 is proof that the previous release is anything but a one-off. It follows the brilliant 2021 vintage, surpassing it with its superb concentration and a layered palate.
It’s deeply golden, with orange and bronze tints – you would think it’s a sweet wine from the colour. And indeed, the nose also edges towards confectionery – with mango, lychee, hibiscus and tropical fruit.
But then the palate brings things right back into dry territory, with a tannic, black tea edge, grapefruit and greengage bite and then the luscious, tropical fruit-laced flavour profile that the nose promised.
Everflyht Rosé de Saignée 2020
Grapes: Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
Like its predecessor, this wine packs a lot of character for such a young release. The 2020 Saignée is a blend of 66% Pinot Noir and 34% Pinot Meunier, 29% of the blend being aged in old Burgundy barrels.
On the nose there are plentiful summer red fruit aromas of cherry, raspberry and strawberry, with watermelon and vanilla ice cream.
On the palate it’s initially fruit-forward and packed with as much red fruit as the nose (and confident pink hue) suggests. There’s also that creamy, slightly vanilla-infused richness, but also a savoury, almost herbaceous texture and fine tannin thanks to the skin contact of the Saignée method.
Despite its fruit generosity, the Everflyht remains strikingly dry throughout, with a residual sugar of just 1g/l.
Balfour Liberty’s Bacchus 2022
Liberty’s 2022 feels like a coming-of-age release for this once youthful and strait-laced Bacchus. The spec sheet describes Fergus Elias as ‘throw[ing] everything at it to create a style which has fantastic depth’ – and it really does.
Noticeably a light straw hue, as opposed to many almost white pale Bacchus, the nose is a complex mixture of lime, grapefruit, guava, floral (but not elderflower) aromatics and ginger spice.
To taste, it’s a brilliantly crisp, dry expression, with tense lime, tangy gooseberry and zesty grapefruit notes up front. There’s that slight floral note that the nose hinted but then more of a green tropical fruit twang. What really stands out is the depth and texture compared to many other Bacchus – this is grown-up, multi-faceted, and with a slightly pithy grip on the finish that lingers.
Roebuck Classic Cuvée 2017
Grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
A slightly greener vintage from Roebuck (in line with a generally challenging 2017 across England), I found this bottle flourished when paired with food.
Thanks to the extra lees age, the nose leans more towards the autolytic side than the other sparkling featured this month, and combine green apple, baked pear and richer, peachy aromas.
The palate is quite full and rounded, with suggestions of sweetness and richness that contrast with the greener, fresher fruit. It’s a nuanced, multi-faceted release from Roebuck – I paired it with an indulgent, buttery lobster brioche roll, and the Roebuck was absolutely singing.
Radlow Hundred Rosé 2022
Grapes: Rondo & Solaris
Radlow Hundred is a relatively new vineyard up in Herefordshire that specialises in the growing of Solaris and Rondo which they believe to be ideally suited to the colder climate. This rosé is one of their first releases and is a blend of the two aforementioned grapes.
On the nose, aromas of cherry, strawberry, pear and watermelon set the stage for a fruity endeavour.
The wine has a slightly silky, creamy weight to it. It’s smooth with summer berry richness and a tangy raspberry and cranberry finish. Overall, it is a lovely, soft, fruit-forward rosé for late summer garden sipping.