Date Visited: Wednesday 7th October 2015
Entry Price: £10.00 for vineyard tour and tasting
I had been reading quite a lot of praise for the sparkling wines from Jenkyn Place, so was very happy to have the opportunity to visit them on a Wednesday afternoon for a vineyard tour and full tasting of their Sparkling wines.
Those of us on the tour were greeted by Simon Bladon, who together with his wife Rebecca established Jenkyn Place as a vineyard in 2004. Simon is a very colourful character, and our tour began with a very appropriate story about how he got involved in the English wine business in the first place. During a visit to the Nyetimber Estate for an oak furniture auction, the couple were offered a glass of what they believed to be Champagne. Impressed by the delicious and rich bubbles they were to discover that the wine was not Champagne at all, in fact it was Nyetimber’s own English Sparkling Wine. Apparently Simon and his wife could not stop talking about this amazing English delicacy, and it planted the seed into Simon’s head for a desire to have his own vineyard.
It was rather fortunate then, that land that Simon owned had been recently vacated by its former occupants. The land had been as a hop farm for a number of years and was initially destined to become a Christmas tree plantation. After a survey by the UK Vineyard Association it was discovered that the land was ideal for vine cultivation. In fact the land was a perfect match for growing Champagne grape varieties, with greensand topsoil over chalk rich marlstone, an altitude of 100 metres above sea level and south facing slopes. After this discovery, and in Simon’s own words, “he couldn’t not plant a vineyard” – so out went the Christmas tree plantation idea and in went the vines!
The first vines were planted in 2004, and with a very firm decision to make English Sparkling Wine the vines of choice were of course Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Further vines were planted in 2005, 2007 and most recently 2010, resulting in a total of 15,000 vines and reaching full vineyard capacity, totalling 12 acres. Simon and the team are largely self-taught with the planting and cultivation of the vines, and the vineyard now employs two full time vineyard managers to look after the precious vines. A team of Romanian’s are brought in every year to help with the grape harvest in October.
The Jenkyn Place range of English Sparkling wines includes three wines; a Brut Cuvée, Sparkling Rosé and the exceptional Blanc de Noir. All of the wines are made in the traditional method and produced by Wiston Estate, another rising talent in the English wine industry. Winemaking duties are headed by Dermot Sugrue, who had formerly had a stint as Winemaker at Nyetimber prior to joining Wiston in 2006. I’m sure that it is no coincidence that Simon put his faith in Dermot to produce wines for Jenkyn Place, considering his connection with the very same winery that started his fascination with English Sparkling Wine.
The vineyard is not usually open to the public, and there are only a handful of tour & tasting sessions around harvest time each year. It was really a privellage to be walked around the vineyard by Simon, as each insight into his enterprise was equally fascinating. It was quite a cold evening, and with the minutes of daylight quickly dwindling, we were walked to a charming outhouse building where the tasting session would begin. Here, Simon was joined by his wife Rebecca who also added her opinions on the three wines that were tasted. There were a couple of people familiar with Simon and his excellent wines, and a few that were completely new to Jenkyn Place, including myself. I do love an opportunity to taste wines and discuss with others with differing levels of experience in both the wines in question and English wine in general. One thing is for sure; everyone loved the wines and we all left with multiple bottles in hand. It was impossible to resist the opportunity to buy a few bottles at cellar door prices after such an excellent tasting session.
And with that, lets move on to my tasting notes. A big thanks to both Simon and Rebecca and also the other guests for such a charming evening of English Sparkling wine and discussion.
Brut Cuvée 2010
Grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier Price: £28.50
60% Chardonnay, 32% Pinot Noir & 8% Pinot Meunier, grown in Hampshire and produced in Sussex by Wiston with 42 months on the lees.
This is an excellent Champagne-challenger with rich nose of vibrant citrus, stone fruit and yeasty notes.
Fine streams of persistent bubbles lead to an excellent creamy mouthfeel. Palate is excellently judged with stone fruit smoothness cut through by fresh lemon acidity and tangy green apples.
Luxurious and smooth, leading to a great finish with flavours of toasted sugar and biscuit.
Sparkling Rosé 2009
Grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier Price: £35.50
This is a red fruit dominated Rosé with 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay blend.
The red-biased blend shows through on the nose with noticeable aromas of freshly picked red strawberries and hints of raspberry.
A with many Sparkling Rosé’s, this was the easiest drinking and lightest of the three wines we tried. With quite a clean palate it’s an ideal aperitif style sparkling wine.
Blanc de Noir 2010
Grapes: Chardonnay Price: £35.50
The most complex and curious wine on offer from Jenkyn Place, their Blanc de Noirs is a 50/50 split of Pinot’s Noir & Meunier. The nose combines citrus freshness with really rich nutty aromas, lovely toasted qualities and subtle hints of red fruit.
The mouthfeel on this is the most elegant of the three wines – with a luxurious foam and creamy weight. It’s fresh and clean upfront with vibrant acidity, then a citrus and raspberry tang on the mid taste before leading to a more complex lasting finish with biscuit & nutty notes.
I really love how the red fruit flavours are so subtle and just drift in and out throughout; each mouthful is truly a journey.