It almost feels like the status quo; we start a new year with hope and aspirations, only to come to a quick realisation that this year will continue very much how 2020 closed. But it’s not all doom and gloom – for those of you wanting to explore wine through Tryanuary or a similar social movement, I once again have a wonderful (and incredibly diverse) selection of English Wine recommendations for you.
Our first 2021 Wine of the Month is the super Winbirri Signature 2016 (£14.99) which will surprise many with its full-bodied red fruit and spicy oak structure. Keeping things red-hued, I’ve also reviewed the latest Bolney Pinot Noir (£19.99) and the head-turning Dunleavy Sparkling Red (£28.50) – a sparkling Rondo!
On the classic sparkling side this month, a duo of fresh and tasty new 2018 vintage releases come from Balfour Hush Heath Saignée Rosé (£34.99) and Busi-Jacobsohn Cuvée Brut (£38.00), as well as the incredibly well-priced and equally delicious Woodchester Valley Reserve Cuvée 2017 (£25.95).
I close off with two crisp and zingy white wine expressions. Adnams’ own-label Bacchus (£13.99) is a classic, zesty expression. And finally, we have a new Madeleine Angevine 2019 from Stanlake Park (£13.99), which I found particularly fresh and fragrant.
Winbirri Signature 2016
• WINE OF THE MONTH •
For anyone seeking an English red to challenge preconceptions, this is the wine. Winemaker, Lee Dyer, looks to Rioja for inspiration for his red winemaking, and that shows through clearly here with this wine – made from Dornfelder – spending 18 months in old and new American oak.
The colour is deep, purple-hued and vivid, as is the nose of plums, kirsch cherry, black fruit and mocha spice.
The taste will surprise and delight many – this red has great body and excellent concentration of dark cherry and bramble fruit flavours. The lightly chewy tannin and generous spiced notes on the finish leave a sublime lasting impression.
I served this on New Year’s Day with Peking Duck, and it was a triumph!
Balfour Saignée Rosé 2018
Grapes: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier & Pinot Blanc
Taking a different approach from the conventional blending of a small amount of a red wine into a sparkling white base, this new rosé is made using the Saignée method, where colour is extracted from contact with the red grape skins. This blend of 45% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Meunier and 5% Pinot Blanc must be one of the most textural wines to have been launched nationally, having just gone into Majestic Wine at £35.00 a bottle.
As soon as I opened this and smelt it, I knew I was going to love it. It is confidently coloured with a big nose of ripe cherry, hints of black fruit, winter berry, dried fennel and spice.
The palate was immediately pleasurable too, with the generosity and ripeness of the 2018 vintage manifesting itself in waves of ripe red and black berries. There’s a slight grip, and those savoury fennel textures once again, combined with a softness of weight. This is textured and delicious!
Busi-Jacobsohn Cuvée Brut 2018
Grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
This is the second vintage of wine from Busi-Jacobsohn – but it feels that this encouraging new estate is already starting to enter its stride. This is the first of two new 2018 vintage releases, with more to follow, and is a classic blend of 60% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir and 15% Pinot Meunier.
The nose on this wine really appealed with aromas of crushed oyster shell, lemon zest, crunchy orchard fruit and a light seasoning of pastry.
The palate delivers on the promise of the nose; fine-tuned, linear acidity and crunchy green apples lead to riper pear and apricot flavours. This is really composed and fragrant, and, in my opinion, quite a step up on the first release.
Woodchester Valley Reserve Cuvée 2017
Grapes: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay & Pinot Meunier
A new vintage of this well-made, well-judged sparkling blend of 49% Pinot Noir, 36% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Meunier is something to celebrate. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Woodchester Valley’s still wines. However, I think this is their best sparkling release to date.
This is a very pretty expression of sparkling wine; the nose is practically perfumed, with white peach, sweet pear and blossom notes, lifted by warm brioche aromas.
To taste, again it’s the ripe fruit at the forefront with an orchard fruit fusion of ripe red apple, and generous peachiness. This is both refreshing and generous, with a light seasoning of biscuity complexity.
Dunleavy Sparkling Red 2018
It’s no secret that I’m not the biggest Rondo fan, but I’m always open-minded, especially with wines that try to push the boundaries. This is a sparkling Rondo from Somerset with low dosage, low sulphur and low intervention, and it’s really quite delicious.
The colour is light ruby red – less dense than the 2017 vintage, which I also tried. The nose is a mixture of ripe red cherry, raspberry and hints of blackcurrant.
What I enjoyed about this was the brisk, clean, dry palate. It almost feels like a deep, dark rosé, with some lovely crunchy red fruit, tangy cranberry and pink grapefruit peel. There’s also a decent finish and it stands up really well to a meaty food pairing too.
Bolney Pinot Noir 2019
Grapes: Pinot Noir
This arrived just after I had completed last year’s Pinot Noir-focussed round-up, which is a shame as Bolney have long been champions of Pinot Noir.
With impressive ruby-hued colours, this latest 2019 vintage has a bright, clean nose of ripe cherry, raspberry and a hint of black pepper.
To taste, there are elegant and pronounced red berries – lots of cherry and raspberry plus a rounded strawberry character, with only minimal oak spice structure and a nice light tannin texture on the finish.
Overall, this is a very clean and classy example of cool-climate Pinot Noir.
Adnams Bacchus 2019
The quality of own-label Bacchus has improved immeasurably over the last couple of years and this is another stellar example. Made by Liam Idzikowski with Bacchus from the Crouch Valley, this is an energetic celebration of vivid Essex-grown fruit.
The nose of lime zest, tropical fruit, white pepper and a hint of floral fragrance is exactly how I like Bacchus to be.
To taste, the crispness explodes on the palate with a burst of lime and pungent tropical fruits, but the slightly weighty, stone fruit mid-taste is what really stands out. This is incredibly food-friendly, and also wallet-friendly at £13.99.
Stanlake Park Madeleine 2019
Grapes: Madeleine Angevine
Something about drinking this crisp, delicate, crystalline Madeleine Angevine in between all the indulgences of the Christmas period really stood out.
This pale wine has a bright nose of fresh lemon zest, white flowers and pear with a sea breeze freshness.
It’s crisp and crunchy to taste, with flavours of tangy apples and zesty lemon. There’s also light stone fruit notes and punchy acidity, along with a hint of lemon curd.