ENGLISH WINE WEEK’S STAR BUYS

ENGLISH WINE WEEK’S STAR BUYS image

By Rose Murray Brown MW  Published in The Scotsman 26 May 2018

English Wine Week (26 May – 2 June) starts today offering a chance to celebrate the UK’s burgeoning wine industry.  Wine estates, merchants and restaurants across the country will host English wine pairing dinners, tasting tours, vineyard open days, wine & cheese walks and wine offers (www.englishwineproducers.co.uk) to help you discover WineGB, the new name for the English wine producers.

One million new vines were planted last year in England as the sparkling wine boom started to take off.  It even attracted two Champagne houses, Taittinger and Pommery, to cross the channel to join the planting frenzy in Kent and Hampshire.  Now with over 500 vineyards, 5000 acres under vine producing 5 million bottles in its 133 wineries, English wine is entering its golden age – and production is expected to double in the next five years.

I still find the quality of sparkling and still wines quite mixed, with producers struggling to balance high acidity with ripe enough fruit.  Take a look at my pick of Top Ten English still white, red and sparkling to see who has succeeded so far:


STILL WHITES
                                    
Sussex: STOPHAM ESTATE PINOT BLANC 2015
***STAR BUY WHITE***

(£12.95 - £14.99 The Wine Society; Waitrose; Marks & Spencer; www.stophamvineyard.co.uk)
Made by ex-McLaren Formula 1 engineer Simon Woodhead who changed careers to plant vines in the South Downs near the River Arun eleven years ago.  A remarkable tangy white, made from a grape often deemed to be rather dull in comparison to its cousin Chardonnay.  More ripe pithy fruits than often found in English wines with blossomy elderflower notes, lime citrus flavours citrus peel, sharp acidity and reasonable length.  Stopham also make good Pinot Gris: 11.5%


Cornwall: CAMEL VALLEY CORNWALL BACCHUS DRY 2016
(£13.50 Waitrose; www.thewinesociety.com; www.camelvalley.com)
Bacchus is gaining popularity amongst English growers.  Created in 1933, this Cornish Bacchus is typically grapefruity, delicate with sharp citric flavours. Made by ex-RAF pilot Bob Lindo with wife Annie and son Sam, who bought an old sheep farm with south facing slopes close to Bodmin Moor in the 1980’s and converted it into one of the UK’s best still and fizz estates winning the Royal Warrant this year: 12.5%


SPARKLING

Sussex: NYETIMBER CLASSIC CUVEE NV
***STAR BUY FIZZ***
(£31 - £36.99 The Wine Society; Majestic Wine; Waitrose; Ocado; St Andrews Wine; Bon Vivant Companion)
Despite an influx of newcomers, this fizz is still ahead of the pack with delicate citric fruits, toasty undertones, creamy fruits, depth and vibrancy.  Nyetimber was created by an American couple who pioneered the use of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, copying Champagne back in 1988, although authorities advised them to plant apples instead.  Now owned by Dutchman Eric Heerema with Canadian winemaker Cherie Spriggs. 12%


Oxfordshire: WYFOLD VINEYARD BRUT 2013
(£33 www.laithwaites.co.uk)
Barbara Laithwaite and Cherry Thompson planted 4,000 vines in the Chiltern Hills near the Thames in 2003, now sons Henry and Ben run this tiny two hectare project.  Beautifully crafted fizz with tangy citric flavours, soft creaminess and minerally backbone made from the Champagne grape trio.  It is more approachable in acidity than many English fizz: 12%

                                                
Dorset: BRIDE VALLEY BRUT RESERVE 2014
***STAR BUY FIZZ***

(£27 www.thewinesociety.com; £32.95 www.leaandsandeman.co.uk)
From a sheep farm in Litton Cheney near Bridport bought in the late 1980’s by Steven and Arabella Spurrier, who planted 42,000 vines on the Kimmeridgian soils.  Their Brut Reserve has equal proportions of the Champagne grape trio – a top choice with tasters praising its toasty brioche aromas, generous fruit, well-integrated acidity and soft silky palate.  Worthy gold medal winner at the Sommelier Wine Awards this year: 12%


Hampshire: HAMBLEDON CLASSIC CUVEE NV
(£29 Marks & Spencer; Berry Bros & Rudd www.bbr.com)
From UK’s first commercial vineyard planted in 1952 by Sir Guy Salisbury-Jones.  New owner Yorkshireman Ian Kellett invested millions and employed Herve Justin from Champagne Duval Leroy, a keen organic winegrower.  This has regularly won its place in our top ten with its deliciously biscuit aromas, savoury palate, focused fruits and quince and red berry undertones: 12%


SPARKLING ROSE

Dorset: BRIDE VALLEY BELLA ROSE 2014
(£31.50 www.rudewines.co.uk)
Another winner from West Dorset.  A pretty, blush-toned, bright focused ripe fruit rose with fine delicate mousse, made from predominantly Pinot Noir with 10% Chardonnay by the new Spurrier project.  Grapes are grown at the Spurrier vineyard, but this beautifully crafted fizz is made at nearby Furleigh Estate by winemaker Ian Edwards.   11.5%

                                             
Sussex: WISTON ESTATE ROSE BRUT 2014
(£39 www.swig.co.uk; £35.95 www.wistonestate.com)
Attractive pink fizz with toasty creamy blend of three Champagne grapes grown on cretaceous chalk, planted 12 years ago.  Made by the celebrated Irish winemaker Dermot Sugrue, who worked at Nyetimber using 68% Pinot Noir, 22% Pinot Meunier and just 10% Chardonnay.  Ideal choice for anyone who finds English fizz high in acidity; this is soft and rounded from oak ageing: 12%


RED

Kent: HUSH HEATH ESTATE ‘MANOR’ PINOT NOIR 2016
(£19.99 Fine Wine Musselburgh; Taurus Wines)
England’s best reds to date are made from Pinot Noir.  Hush Heath is best known for its rose fizz, but have made a great effort with this Pinot grown on Wealden clay.  Don’t expect it to be Burgundian-like, it is light, delicate with bright raspberry fruit, minty and spiciness from short maturation in American & French oak.  Another Sommelier Award gold winner: 12%


Essex: LYME BAY PINOT NOIR 2016
***STAR BUY RED***

(£19.49 www.farnhamwinecellar.co.uk; www.lymebaywinery.co.uk)
Who would have thought an Essex Pinot Noir would be a match for Burgundy.  This delicious cherry fruited, roast coffee bean and vanilla flavoured red is surprisingly ripe given its origin.  Grapes are grown Michael and Heather Bunker between the Crouch and Blackwater rivers in Essex, but made by Lyme Bay’s winemaker Liam Idzikowski.  Check out Lyme Bay’s still Pinot Noir rose too: 12%


Join Rose’s Organic, Biodynamic & Natural Wine Tasting on 5 July in Edinburgh £42 www.rosemurraybrown.com