Last Thursday saw Kent's Simpsons Wine Estate launch their much anticipated 2018 vintage English wines, along with their inaugural Chalklands Classic Cuvée 2016. The launch took place in the intimate surroundings of Trade Soho. I had the pleasure to attend and sample the full range, following my preview of the Rosé and Pinot Meunier in this month's Still Wine Round-Up.
On the day, there was a real buzz about the wines amongst the wine trade and writers present, with much praise for the precision and quality of the wines on show, as well as the distinctive branding and packaging. The unique Derringstone Pinot Meunier 2018 understandably went down a storm. However, it was the Rabbit Hole Pinot Noir 2018 that was the real show-stopper. I recall Charles' reluctance to consider producing still wine in England when I was present for the planting of Pinot Noir in their second vineyard in Kent. How things have changed, and why not, with fruit coming from the fabulous 2018 vintage and the combined still wine know-how of Charles, Ruth and their team.
I'm hugely proud of what the Simpson's have done in just a few short years in England. The quality of all five wines on show was consistently high and will undoubtedly push the boundaries of what people thought that still English wine can deliver. Additionally, Charles' involvement in the recently formed Wine Garden of England collective feels very significant; the seven producers are working in harmony to deliver on both consumer tourism approach, and also exciting on-trade partnerships.
I took the chance to ask Charles and Ruth a couple of questions regarding their still wine turnaround, and their initial thoughts on the response to the wines.
Tasting notes for all five wines follow below.
"We vowed we would never make still wine in England when we first established Simpsons Wine Estate, however the quality and warmth of the vineyard sites and our choice of planting some Burgundian still wine clones was enough of an encouragement to try. This combined with our 17 years of experience making still wine in the Languedoc and the investment in the correct equipment to create still wines (for example the use of a destemmer for the red), made our English still wine dream a reality."
"The response to the wines so far has been overwhelmingly positive, to both the quality of the liquid inside the bottle and the quality and design of the packaging. This applies as much to the totally unique Pinot Meunier Blanc de Noirs, Derringstone as to the more recognised Chardonnay that goes into the Gravel Castle. And we’re already regretting not making more of the still Pinot Noir, Rabbit Hole!"
Simpsons Rabbit Hole Pinot Noir 2018
Only 5000 bottles of this delectable Pinot Noir were made, which, despite its youth is already being heralded as one of the best English red winess of all time.
The nose is immediately appealing, with red cherry, wild strawberry and a pleasing peppery, savoury charm.
Sublime to taste in youth, with supple, ripe cherry and raspberry flavours. With its softness and savoury hues, the Rabbit Hole Pinot is surprisingly Burgundian in style and is sure to turn a lot of heads.
- Buy from Roberson Wine £27.00
Simpsons Gravel Castle Chardonnay 2018
The baby brother of the already well-received Roman Road Chardonnay. Produced in an unoaked style, this wine was aged on lees to bring subtle texture and weight to complement its youthful character.
The nose is bright and fresh, with ripe pear, crisp green apple and zesty citrus notes, reminiscent of English orchards.
To taste, those clean orchard fruit flavours really shine, whilst delicate white peach and hints of tropics plus the light, leesy textures that elevate the experience.
- Buy from Roberson Wine £17.00
Simpsons Railway Hill Rosé 2018
The Railway Hill Rosé 2018 is made from 100% Pinot Noir, and hasn't gone through malolactic fermentation in order to preserve fruit purity.
The result is a vibrant wine bursting with citrus energy and bright English summer berry aromas.
The taste is charismatically zingy, with a fusion of lively pink grapefruit and tangy cranberry and raspberry flavours. Then there's a pretty rose petal aromatic charm, hints of juicy white peaches and a long drawn-out finish.
- Buy from Roberson Wine £19.00
Simpsons Derringstone Pinot Meunier 2018
A first of a kind Pinot Meunier still Blanc de Noirs.
The palate is where the Derringstone really excels. Firstly, you've got that signature English acidity and vibrancy, but that is partnered with a leesy richness and riper, almost honeyed stone fruit on the mid-taste.
But then it takes a darker, savoury turn, with bitter nut and orange peel. A truly special and textural wine.
- Buy from Roberson Wine £19.00
Simpsons Chalklands Classic Cuvée 2016
The first vintage Classic Cuvée from the Simpsons is a blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, which spent 21 months on lees and was released with a dosage of 9g/l
The nose is rich and open, with citrus, ripe white peach and honeysuckle floral notes.
The palate has a pretty structure, with bright, youthful zesty flavours and green pear up front, and a soft, enveloping mouse with lightly honeyed stone fruit notes.
- Buy from Roberson Wine £28.00