English Wines A-Z
English Wine Week 2021
19th – 27th June 2021
So far this year I have written up 39 English (and Welsh) wines in my various columns in the national press and also in Wednesday Wines and you will find every single one of them on this website free to view for Friends and Members. Please note that a Friends subscription is free of charge. In this publication today, I am adding a further 120 wines. I have tasted more English wines than ever this year in an effort to track down the finest bottles to sing about. Every wine mentioned here is fascinating and many are indeed terrific and I urge you to seek out as many as you can this week (and every week that follows) in order to support the amazingly talented people working in our fantastic, home-grown wine industry. On the 26th June, in the Daily Mail’s Weekend Magazine I have selected five crème de la crème wines, for a very special article, too.
To those wineries who submitted samples for me to taste earlier in the year, thank you! And to every winery in the UK please continue to keep me up to date with all of your new releases and I promise to keep writing up the very best wines.
a’Beckett’s Vineyard www.abecketts.co.uk
2016 a’Beckett’s Vineyard, Cuvée Madeline Brut £25.00
65% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir with 33 months lees ageing, this is a slender, lemony wine with a light, dry and frothy feel and a lean finish. It will mature well and seems to already show considerable refinement.
Albourne Estate www.albourneestate.co.uk
2019 Albourne Estate, Estate Selection £14.95
Made from Chardonnay, Ortega and a small dribble of Bacchus, this is a very pleasing blend with summer orchard fruit, gentle florals and nice citrus touches. Delightful, delicate, nicely dry and crisp this is a delicious wine.
2010 Ambriel, Cloud Ten £99.00 Magnum
Made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier to celebrate the ten year harvest anniversary at Ambriel. Tangy, energetic and nicely floral on the nose, this wine might be more than a decade old, but I wouldn’t bet against it making a decade more in a good cellar!
2015 Ambriel, Blanc de Noirs £32.50
A touch pink, very flavoursome and red berry-scented, this is a bone dry wine with gentle unassuming nose and a brutally combative palate. The counterpoint between the nose and palate is amazing and this is another Ambriel with plenty of ageing ability ahead of it!
2014 Artelium, Curators Cuvée £32.00
Made by Dermot Sugrue, this is a rather exciting, energetic, lovely, sour and tangy wine with a nice future ahead of it.
Balfour, Hush Heath Estate www.hushheath.com
2018 Balfour, Blanc de Noirs (£35.00)
Smooth, ripe and creamy and very much a 2018 in its ripeness and lustiness, this is a very successful release and I am sure that it will be snapped up, not least because the proposed price is very fair indeed.
Bearley Vineyard www.bearleyvineyard.co.uk
2019 Bearley Vineyard, Bard’s Red £no idea – the website here is poor and the link to recommended retailers is completely out of date. I searched for half an hour and was none the wiser… I hope you manage to find a way of buying this wine because in spite of the fact that it is depressingly illusive, I really enjoyed it. Lovely and friendly, I tasted two vintages (2018 and 2019) of this Pinot Noir Précoce and this was the superior vintage. Bright, juicy and rather good fun.
Bee Tree Vineyard – I cannot find a website anywhere, but I can find the wine (well one merchant anyway)!
2018 Bee Tree Vineyard, Single Vineyard Pinot Noir £22.00 www.thegoodwineshop.co.uk
Angular, sour and fresh, with decent red cherry notes and a nice slippery core. This is a bright, crisp wine with nicely judged, juicy Pinot fruit.
Biddenden Vineyards www.biddendenvineyards.com
2018 Biddenden Vineyards, Ortega £12.70
Slippery, deeply perfumed and nicely balanced, there is a touch of off-dry, silky, tropical fruit here and this makes it an enticing prospect.
2019 Biddenden Vineyards, Ortega (I assume this will take over from the 2018)
Ditto the 2018 with a little more orchard blossom – fresh, summery and very long.
2020 Biddenden Vineyards, Gribble Bridge Rosé £12.70
Made from Dornfelder and Ortega, this is a lovely wine with red apple skin freshness and a bold colour. It is a main course style with a bitter, cleansing finish.
2020 Biddenden Vineyards, Schönburger 50cl (£12.70 for the 2018 vintage – I assume this one follows)
Delicious with gentle apple, pear and honey notes. Stunningly balanced and hauntingly engaging.
2020 Biddenden Vineyards, Gamay Noir £19.00
Tart on the finish, with a lovely nose and lip-smacking depth of fruit. Clean, cherry-like and rather reminiscent of a feisty Beaujolais.
2020 Biddenden Vineyards, Gribble Bridge Dornfelder £12.90
Darker and weightier with nice depth and spice, this is an impressive wine and it shows that we can make carnivorous reds as well as lighter styles, too.
Blackbook Winery www.blackbookwinery.com
I love loads of these wines, but the website indicates that they are completely sold out of everything. So, I suppose that this is great news! After I posted this Report on Wednesday, winemaker/owner Sergio Verrillo emailed me to say that they website has been replenished and I can announce that the cellar is indeed well-stocked again and ready to go. I’d Rather Be A Rebel, Pygmalion and GMF are all stunners and when some Pinot Noirs come back into stock, grab all you can!
Blackdown Ridge Estate www.blackdownridge.co.uk
2015 Blackdown Ridge Estate, Vintage Sparkling Rosé Brut £25.00
While I am not a fan of the clear glass, this is a finer wine than the 2014 and the perfume is controlled and accurate. Made from Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier and with 12m on its lees, this is a fine-boned wine with a hefty acidic kick, but it is a good effort nonetheless.
2018 Blackdown Ridge, Triomphe limited Release £20.00, reduced to £16.66 ( sold as 6 bottles for £100)
Made from Triomphe d’Alsace and seeing 10 months in French oak, this is a dark spicy, bonfire-tinged red wine with lovely black cherry fruit and masses of gusto. Straightforward and juicy, this is a surprisingly good steak wine!
The Bolney Estate www.bolneywineestate.com
NV The Bolney Estate, Eighteen Acre Rosé Brut £23.99
Rather deep in colour and very fruit-driven, this is like a vivacious Framboise Royale and it certainly has enough oomph for robust canapés and starters.
2014 The Bolney Estate, Cuvée Noir Brut £24.99
Really well made and peppery and fresher than a Sparkling Shiraz, this is a dark wine, with great colour and a decent lick of tannin, too. Lovely and unexpected – it is a must for Indian feasts.
2018 Busi-Jacobsohn, Cuvée Brut £38.00
Made from 60% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Meunier and 20% Pinot Noir, this is a super-smooth, plush wine with a fair amount of mid-palate weight and while, technically, I would fancy a little more balancing acidity, this is certainly a forward and genial creation.
Camel Valley www.camelvalley.com
2020 Camel Valley, Bacchus Dry £14.95
Loaded with nettle and citrus zest, this is a delicious and slightly nostalgic style that never fails to impress me.
2020 Camel Valley, Rosé £13.95
This is a very lean and raspy chap designed for slicing through prawn cocktails and juicy scallops and it tastes like the wine above with a splash of Pinot added! It’s not a traditional rosé but I rather like the cut of its jib!
2018 Camel Valley, Cornwall Brut £29.95
Extremely precise and amazingly refreshing, this is a citrus javelin of fruit and acidity and it keeps the palate buzzing for minutes. Delicious and I imagine that it will age well, too.
2018 Camel Valley, Pinot Noir Rosé Brut
With green apple freshness balancing the delicate raspberry rosé tones, this is not a rich rosé but a keen, bracing style with delicious angles and spectacular grip. It is one of the country’s most impressive wines.
Carr Taylor www.carr-taylor.co.uk
2014 Carr Taylor, White Pinot £31.99
The website doesn’t show a vintage on this wine, but I am certain that I was sent a 2014! Anyway, it is made from Pinots Noir and Blanc and even though it is seven years old it is still austere, hard and rather backward, but these guys know how to make wines that age, so it makes the grade for this year’s line-up.
Chapel Down www.chapeldown.com
2016 Chapel Down, Three Graces £35.00 (£210 for a 6 bottle case)
Creamy on the palate and firm on the finish, I imagine that most people will be cracking on with this wine now, but I know there is more to come. It may well end up being a classic Chapel Down sleeper!
NV Chapel Down, Rosé Brut £30.00 (£180 for a 6 bottle case)
With a rosehip and wild strawberry perfume, this is a lovely, delicate wine that has not got the depth of some of the more red-wine-heavy rosés and this makes it ideal for garden parties and lighter foodie events.
Chartham Vineyard www.charthamvineyard.co.uk
2018 Chartham Vineyard, Brut Blanc de Blancs £25.95
Dry and sour, but very citrusy, rather firm and balanced, this is a 100% Chardonnay wine with a stern attitude and all it needs is a little time to compose itself – about 3 years I reckon!
2019 Chartham Vineyard, Pinot Gris £13.95
This is another strict and dry wine with some powdery minerality underpinning a floral nose and hints of ripe fruit. These guys like acidity – good job I do, too!
Coates & Seely www.coatesandseely.com
NV Coates & Seely, Brut Reserve, Britagne £32.95 bottle; £71.00 magnum
Sleek and steely this is a superb, lithe and energetic wine with a fabulous length and flair. It is a real star player!
Davenport Vineyards www.davenportvineyards.co.uk
2015 Davenport Vineyards, Limney Estate £27.50
Made from 80% Chardonnay, 12% Pinot Meunier and 8% Pinot Noir this is a super-clean, thrilling, racy and extremely heightened citrus pith-driven Chardonnay-themed wine. It has epic texture, too, coupled with very fine bubbles. I gave it a massive score in my notes.
2019 Davenport Vineyards, Horsmonden Dry £15.50 (moving on to this after the lovely 2018)
I adore this wine and always have done! Sheer class, superb layering and freshness and lovely wistful English summer fragrances. This is one of England’s most beautiful and accurate still white wines.
2018 Denbies, Pinot Noir £24.95
Looking more like a punchy, testosterone-fuelled Dolcetto, with its bitter cherry and dark chocolate attack, this is a delightful and extremely rewarding red wine. It manages to wear 17 months in older French barriques with ease and this only adds to the swagger that this challenging red brings to its delivery.
Digby Fine English www.digby-fine-english.com
2013 Digby Fine English, Vintage Reserve Brut £42.00
Nicely balanced with decent appley fruit and a long, compote finish, this is a mellow, mature, rewarding style with lovely balance.
Dillions Vineyard www.dillionsvineyard.co.uk
2020 Dillions Vineyard, Bacchus £18.00
I was delighted to be able to write the very first review of a Dillions wine in my Vineyard Magazine column back in April 2020. This year’s release builds on the success of the 2019 vintage and it is clear that these chaps mean business with the Bacchus variety. Alongside the trademark asparagus, gooseberry and nettle notes there is a soothing chamomile perfume that calms down the electrical pulses emanating from the ‘green theme’. This is a delicious wine and one which offers a genuine slice of the verdant English countryside in the glass and if you look at the charming label, you will get a pretty good idea of the joy and beauty found in this wine.
2020 Dillions Vineyard, Rosé £18.00
I mentioned the artwork on the labels in the review above and there is nothing more evocative than the pomegranate depicted here. Made from Pinot Noir and ever so delicate and keenly poised on the palate, this is a fresh, light wine that ought to be deployed before dinner as opposed to during such is its delicacy and refinement.
Exton Park www.extonparkvineyard.com
NV Exton Park RB32 Brut £39.00
Made from 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, this is a sour, lively, chiselled wine with a mineral line that runs the length of the experience. Dramatic and taut, this is a fascinating wine.
NV Exton Park RB28 Blanc de Noirs £43.00
Made from 100% Pinot Noir this is another supremely firm and linear wine with less obvious flesh than all of the other richer BdNs. It couldn’t come from anywhere else! I love the Exton stance and I cannot wait to see how this newly released wine will age (it gained a huge score in my notes!).
Fairmile Vineyard www.fairmilevineyard.co.uk
NV Fairmile Vineyard Rosé £35.00
I would love it more if it were in a green glass bottle, but this is clearly a fresh and professionally assembled wine (produced by Hambledon) and while the finish is a touch sour and unresolved, there is decent length and good potential. It is worth noting that, for now, the colour is super, too!
NV Fairmile Vineyard, Classic Cuvée £30.00
Made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, this is another youthful and slightly raw style, but there is energy and flair here, too and I think it just needs a few months to calm down and organise its flavours. A welcome new winery in my A-Z!
Flint Vineyard www.flintvineyard.com
2020 Flint Vineyard, Charmat Rosé £22.99
Much more complete, enveloping and layered than the edgy 2019, this wine has a delicious flavour with expansive, flirtatious fruit.
2019 Flint Vineyard, Bacchus £16.99
Nettle-y, aromatic and challenging on the nose and then smooth and rather exotic on the palate. This is a very unusual Bacchus and it just shows that Flint never plays by the established rules!
2019 Flint Vineyard, Silex Blanc £18.99
Made from 50% Pinot Gris, 30% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Blanc and 10% Pinot Noir – all in neutral barrels. This is total class, with exceptional control and a hugely complex and layered palate. But, as always, there is uncommon restraint and finesse, too. Simply amazing – this is the most out-there wine of the year and I gave it an insanely large score in my notes.
Fox & Fox Mayfield www.foxandfox.wine
2014 Fox & Fox Mayfield, Inspiration Brut Blanc de Gris £39.00
Made from Pinot Gris and some Chardonnay, and with four-plus years on its lees, this is a bizarre wine and one with a superbly ostentatious chassis with a degree of control, too, which brings it all into line (just)!
Furleigh Estate www.furleighestate.co.uk
2013 Furleigh Estate Classic Cuvée magnum £62.00
Check out the price here for a magnum! This is a brilliant wine and one of the finest value celebratory formats I know! Adroit fruit, nice balance and strict control equal a finely-assembled and yet classically proportioned wine. This is very impressive indeed.
Giffords Hall www.giffordshall.co.uk
2019 Giffords Hall, Madeleine Angevine £14.50
Gentle and smooth with a light lemon theme and a lovely dry, crisp finish, this is an enchanting wine with an airy character. It is a perfect aperitif white for sophisticated gatherings.
2016 Gusbourne, Brut Reserve £39.00
Beautifully creamy initially and then rather tense and highly acidic, this is a classic game of two halves and the Gusbourne flair and polish is here in abundance. This is a more precise and less flamboyant vintage than of late and it is one of the most rewarding sparklers in the land.
2016 Gusbourne, Blanc de Noirs £59.00
Gosh, I love this wine. Stunning poise, serious restraint and balanced with lovely control against a deep core of wild red fruit. Stunning bubbles and weight, this is the real deal – a world-class wine.
2016 Gusbourne, Rosé £49.00
Strangely weightless with just the right amount of bitterness and verve under superbly calm and demure fruit. It is clever that this wine is, in effect, a ‘lighter’ creation than all of the ‘whites’. Sensational.
2016 Gusbourne, Blanc de Blancs £59.00
Lip-smacking, well-balanced and raspy, with a challenging, chalky finish, this is a beautiful wine with superb poise coupled with lovely freshness and class.
2019 Gusbourne, Boot Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir £35.00
I still can’t quite get over the fact that this wine’s price has skyrocketed recently, but this vintage is a herbal one with a fine feel and a pale colour. Spicy, Irancy-shaped and atypical for this label, it is still an interesting creation worthy of close inspection.
2020 Gusbourne, Pinot Noir Rosé Mill Hill Vineyard £25.00
Is this England’s finest, still Pinot Noir Rosé? I think it is joint first position and read on for the other epic creation! This is a gorgeous rosé with lovely definition and silkiness and a very juicy, bright feel.
2019 Gusbourne, Guinevere Chardonnay, Boot Hill Vineyard £29.00
Marked with lime juice oak and rather exotic and tangy fruit, this is an edgy, youthful style with a large amount of acidity and drive. It very well may be the finest vintage to date of this amazing label, but as I saw a very early sample I would love to reassess in six months! Either way, it is a white-knuckle experience.
2019 Gusbourne, Chardonnay 809, Boot Camp Vineyard £? (I cannot find this wine online – I imagine that it is not quite released yet)
Super-refined and much more pointy and mineral-driven and calm than Guinevere, but also leaner, longer and cooler, this is a mesmerising wine. Not as ripe or as open as Guinevere and this means it
Halfpenny Green Wine Estate www.halfpennygreen.co.uk
2019 Halfpenny Green, Penny Black £9.50
Madeleine Angevine and Huxelrebe in perfect partnership, this is a quaint reflection of our collective vinous past and at £9.50 it might just be England’s fighting price still white wine! It is also a great counterpoint to the sweetie!
2018 Halfpenny Green, Late Harvest £12.95 half bottle
Made from Huxelrebe and Bacchus, this is a bruised apple and pear-skin scented sweetie with a faint Muscat feel, and a light and refreshing finish. At 10% alcohol, it is a delicate and gorgeously innocent pud wine for the lightest of fresh fruit desserts.
Hattingley Valley Wines www.hattingleyvalley.com
2014 Hattingley Valley, Blanc de Blancs £39.50
With 13% old oak and a perfect balance of age and oak, coupled with sensational use of Chardonnay, this is an effortlessly classy wine and one of the most engaging in our land. All too often English BdB lacks aroma, mid-palate grandeur and mystery, but this is a brilliantly balanced wine, at the top of its game and it is incredibly perfumed, stunningly restrained and ever so exciting.
2020 Hattingley Valley, Chardonnay £? – a preview sample
More Loire Chardonnay than Chablis, this is a lovely, salty, tangy style with real seafood appeal and a green thread of freshness running the length of its spine. I adore this racy, energetic style of wine particularly when the acidity is not too raucous and in this example, it is mouth-watering and invigorating, but not sour or drying. Brilliant!
2018 Hencote, Mark I £? – there is no price showing for this wine, unless you buy it as part of a mixed case and even then, the listing says Mark II and the photo clearly shows the wine I am reviewing which is Mark I
Made from Pinot Noir, Pinot Noir Précoce and Rondo, I actually prefer this creation to the balletic Amphora wine below. It has more depth, more spice and also more juiciness and there is more to hang onto. I really like its attitude and stance on the palate. It reminds me of a handful of other English reds, but with just a little more flair, gusto and polish! This is a very impressive wine and I really hope that it is a reasonable price because I can imagine that serious restaurateurs will go nuts for this because it is already drinking very well indeed.
2018 Hencote, Amphora Pinot Noir £45.00
This wine wears a punchy price tag and, while it looks the part and only 1123 bottles were made, these two facts play no part in my assessment of its flavour nor its value. Fermented on skins and with whole bunch inclusion and matured for 10 months in amphora, this is a daring creation and given it comes from Shropshire one could argue it is not the warmest part of the UK either. But forget all of these facts and imagine this wine, sitting in your glass, alongside a decent Oregon Pinot, a fine Waipara version and a finely-tuned Chassagne-Rouge. I, for one, would not complain. There is delicacy here and persistence, too. This is a sensitive style and yet its perfume is enchanting. All in all, this is a rather beautiful creation that hasn’t been pushed or over-extracted and it reflects the singular charm of this grape like no other in the country. If this makes sense to you, then the price tag doesn’t matter.
2014 Henners, Brut Vintage £43.00
Perfect balance, straight down the middle, refreshing, cleanly fruity and mellow, this is an innocent but classy wine that steps back from being too rich.
NV Henners, Rosé £40.00
Gentle, unhurried, rosehip and red cherry notes, with a smooth and prim finish, this is another lovely and unassuming wine with a faint professional air about it.
Heppington Vineyard www.heppingtonvineyard.co.uk
2020 Heppington, Chardonnay £17.50
There is a lot to love about this pin-sharp, daisy-fresh Chardonnay, not least the fact that the palate is smooth and clean and the finish, in spite of its youth, is not too tart or austere. I think that the cunning use of discreet oak here has ameliorated any potentially raucous acidity and this is a cunning tactic in making this wine so appealing so young in its life. Ready to impress this summer, this is a delightfully innocent wine with enough class to tackle top-flight canapés and starters.
2020 Heppington, Pinot Gris £16.50
I particularly liked the 2019 vintage and this 2020 builds on this platform of success. There is some grip and spice here and the mid-palate is sleek and chic. Not modelled on a simple Italian Grigio or a fat Alsatian Gris, this is a middle-weight style, which draws some texture from 30% of the blend residing in seasoned oak barrels for a brief spell, with élan and flair and it is superb value, too.
2020 Heppington, Rosé £ 15.50
This is a little softer and more kindly than other 2020 rosés and there is a delightful rose petal perfume here which also adds to this wine’s allure. Made from Pinot Noir, this is a bargain-priced wine and it puts hosts of Sancerre Rosés to shame!
Herbert Hall shop.herberthall.co.uk
2016 Herbert Hall, Brut £39.50
Smooth, forward, rewarding and clean, this is a wine with balanced fruit and acidity and it seems awfully relaxed already!
2017 Herbert Hall, Brut Rosé £44.00
Not particularly rosé in colour, but certainly more involving on the nose, this is a curio with hidden charms and, like its ‘white’ sibling, is wonderfully forward and gregarious.
Hidden Spring www.hiddenspring.co.uk
2018 Hidden Spring, Classic Cuvée £32.00
Balanced, even, fairly juicy and ripe, but not as actively fizzy as some, this is a smooth and complete wine with pithy, chalky acidity. Delicious.
2020 Hidden Spring, Bacchus Fumé £18.00
Superb! What a difference a year makes. There is no obvious oak here, nor any of the dry roasted peanuts notes that I find on some fumé-style wines, instead, there are spice, gingernut and herb details which temper the green notes in the Bacchus and bring a more exotic feel. This is clever winemaking.
Hoffmann & Rathbone www.hoffmannandrathbone.co.uk
2012 Hofmann & Rathbone, Blanc de Blancs £52.00
Fine, long and quite full and firm on the finish, this is an impressive wine that still has plenty of life left.
2014 Hoffmann & Rathbone, Classic Cuvée £43.00
Creamy, juicy and forward, with some herb and flower top notes, this is a luxurious and layered wine that shows the skill of the blend.
2012 Hofmann & Rathbone, Rosé Réserve £52.00
Classy and fine, considering the unnervingly deep colour, and similar to the BdeB in base flavours but with a faint Pinot twist of fruit on top.
Jenkyn Place www.jenkynplace.com
2014 Jenkyn Place, Rosé Brut £35.00
Another clear glass bottle – aargh! However, the wine inside is nicely made with a perfumed nose and then a very skinny, long, willowy palate with elevated acidity. The pink flavour diminuendo is delightful and quite herbal (English). More vivid cranberry and rosehip than deeper cherry notes, this is a refreshing wine.
2015 Jenkyn Place, Blanc de Blancs Brut £38.00
First BdeB vintage at Jenkyn Place, this is a very good wine with severe citrus notes and a long and unique feel. White flower and tart acid top and tail the experience and there is impressive depth on the mid-palate. This is a foodie style as opposed to an icicle-shaped style of Chardonnay.
Kinsbrook Vineyard www.kinsbrookvineyard.com
2014 Kin, Vintage Cuvée, Kinsbrook Vineyard £35.00 (£210.00 for a case of 6 bottles)
This is a lovely debut wine for Kinsbrook and it is mellow, balanced, drinking well already and certainly a very good advert for this new business. I look forward to tasting more of their wines in due course.
2019 Knightor, Three Barrel Bacchus £18.00
Only 900 bottles made, this is utterly stunning with a wonderfully judged level of sweetness and then magnificent acidity looms into view. This is one of the most unexpectedly magical and rewarding wines in the country.
2019 Knightor, Chardonnay £19.00
Newly released, this is a well-judged 60% stainless steel, 40% oak barrels make and only 115 cases exist so get in quick! Tangy and zesty, like a Chablis crossed with a Sancerre, this is a delicious, prickly and vibrant wine.
Langham Wine Estate www.langhamwine.co.uk
NV Langham, Culver, Classic Cuvée £27.50
Stats – 66% Pinot Noir, 24% Pinot Meunier, 10% Chardonnay, based on 2017 vintage with 6% Reserve wine, 2.5g/L. All makes sense. Then taste this stunner! It is pink (faint) and given the makeup it should be, so this is very much a Blanc de Noirs in shape on the palate and with a silky, heady, red fruit theme it seems that way, too. The finish is bone dry and super-long finish and I have to admit, that I gave this wine an insanely high score.
NV Langham, Corallian, Classic Cuvée £27.50
Made from 62% Chardonnay, 29% Pinot Noir and 9% Pinot Meunier and based on the 2017 like Culver above, this wine utilises 10% Reserve wine and it is a similarly slender 2g/L sugar. Goodness me – is this the finest value pigeon pair of wines in the country? Again, this is quite pink in colour and with an extremely powerful Reserve wine addition that brings gravitas and oomph, this is a strongly perfumed and also flavoured wine with serious attitude and a world-class stance! I am very impressed.
2017 Langham, Rosé £29.90
Haha – this so-called rosé is only a touch pinkier than the other two! This time the mix is 54% Pinot Noir, 23% Pinot Meunier and 23% Chardonnay and it wears a reasonable 4 g/L sugar. I feel that the red wine addition is a little too hard and youthful right now, so please be patient. There are great raw materials here, but it just needs time.
2014 Leventhorpe, Hill Field, Madeleine Angevine / Seyval (£?, Oh dear, another website which doesn’t allow you to order wine unless you fill out a questionnaire).
I really do like this wine, but it is seven years old and hanging on like a quaint old Jurançon Sec, and while there is nothing wrong with that, if you simply cannot buy it with a few keystrokes then all of the effort in the vineyard and winery is wasted. I will get immense flak for this statement (hello Twitter), but someone who knows these people ought to give them a nudge. These are good wines and they surely deserve an audience.
2016 Litmus, White Pinot £25.00
A white wine made from Pinot Noir, this is a simply brilliant creation and while I type this I am reminded (like only a handful of others here) that you can find a full write-up of this wine in my Vineyard Magazine section. Densely packed and in need of time, there is a Grand Cru feel here and this wine has serious potential.
Lyme Bay Winery www.lymebaywinery.co.uk
NV Lyme Bay, Reserve Brut (19 Dec disgorged) £19.99
There is massive amounts of information about this wine on the website, which is cool, but I cannot see the disgorgement date mentioned (perhaps I have missed it) and so I would like to state that I am writing about this wine precisely, as noted on the label. Stunning value, with a nice, smooth mid-palate, some gentle, floral notes and a keen finish, in spite of its apparent youth, this is already drinking nicely.
2018 Lyme Bay, Bacchus Block £17.50
From the Great Whitmans Vineyard in Essex, this is one of the most severely raspy and keenly refreshing wines in the UK. The extra age (now two years) has allowed this wine to grow in the glass into a seriously attractive and rather grand creature.
2016 Lyme Bay Classic Cuvée Brut £28.99
Balanced, smooth, rather juicy and really not showing any particular desire to hang around, this is a party animal who wants someone, somewhere to turn up the music and get on with it.
2018 Lyme Bar, Sandbar £14.99
A smashing Bacchus with layered, slightly tropical fruit with delicious pineapple and lemon zest highlights. This wine will be at its peak this summer, so hurry up!
2018 Lyme Bay, Chardonnay £22.49
Smart stuff here from peeps I normally associate with more floral creations! This time a ripe and creamy Chardy with nice weight and smooth, harmonious fruit and while I sense both lees-work and also faint barrel influences, this is a forward wine and this means you can side-step a Mâcon today with this in your glass.
Marlings Vineyard www.marlingsvineyard.co.uk
NV Marlings, Rosé Brut £26.50
More clear glass – call the police! While a little heavy-handed and full-bodied, I hope that the recipe moving forwards will be one of restraint, but while we have turned the amp up to 11, this is rather a fabulously full-on wine.
Martin’s Lane Vineyard www.martinslane.co.uk
2018 Martin’s Lane Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Blanc de Noirs, Single Estate £24.99
This is a remarkably fleshy and tropical wine which is drinking at its peak and will amaze with its ripeness and depth. Martin’s Lane is a stunning property and terroir is their selling point and this wine proves that we can rival anyone in the world with our forward-drinking Blancs de Noirs.
2018 Martin’s Lane Vineyard, Pinot Grigio, Single Estate £19.99
While some might think that this is a steep price to pay for a Pinot Grigio it is important to stress that we have a tight band of peeps in the UK who attempt this variety and most fashion this grape in an Alto Adige-shaped vehicle as opposed to a supermarket-style glugger. This is one of the finest PGs in the UK and it is worth every penny.
Meophams Valley Vineyard www.meophams.co.uk
2018 Meophams Valley Vineyard, Signature Red £13.95
Made from a hilarious band of revellers – Rondo, Regent, Triomphe d’Alsace and Léon Millot, this is certainly a bit of an old-style English red with its hints of potting compost and greenery but there is also decent ripeness here are masses of flavour. I must say, that I like it! Check out the price, too, and fire up the barbecue. Just remember to lodge this chap in the ice bucket for epic deployment.
2019 Meophams Valley Vineyard, Oakmead White £13.95
Made from Madeleine Angevine and Reichensteiner, this is a bright, apple skin hedgerow-scented wine with a dry, perky finish that follows a slim but harmonious palate. In fact, it turns out that this is the perfect counterpoint to the Sig Red above.
New Hall Vineyards www.newhallwines.com
2018 New Hall Vineyard, Limited Edition Chardonnay £15.00
I am a big fan of this wine. New Hall has never hit the mark with me until this wine absolutely smashed it. While the oak is a little stern and four-square, the lime juice-driven fruit can cope and the finish is impactful and high-tensile. Bravo!
New Hall Vineyard, Purlai Gold, Limited Edition £17.50 half bottle
I have no idea if this is a vintage or non-vintage wine and the website doesn’t either. Made from Bacchus and Schönburg and seasoned in chestnut barrels, this is a lush, pear juice-soaked, sensual sweetie which reminds me of old Jurançon demi-secs from the 60s and 70s. YUM.
Nutbourne Vineyards www.nutbournevineyards.com
2018 Nutbourne Vineyards, Sussex Reserve £11.80
This is a rather an unexpected surprise. I would love to serve this is at a Michelin-starred haunt (blind for my guests), accompanied by some epic nibbles. Layered, smooth, mildly tropical with pear juice and lemongrass, this silky little, slightly old-school wine would have everyone scratching their heads. It is £11.80 – get in quick if you are a retro-lover.
MV Nyetimber, Classic Cuvée £37.00
These wines need nothing more than pithy statements because they are so commanding and delicious. So for each, three mini-shouts – total class, bracingly youthful, complete.
MV Nyetimber, Rosé £42.00
Made from serious red components, upright, challenging and grand.
MV Nyetimber, Cuvée Chérie, Demi-Sec £38.00
The UK’s finest – sensational poise and lip-smacking freshness.
2019 Oastbrook, Pinot Gris £19.00 (still showing the sensational 2018, but this will follow)
This is a standout English still white wine. Luxurious, layered and yet not broad or flirting with sweetness, this is classical style (as in elite Italian) but with a laser-guided English feel and an amazing, finish. I have said it before, but restaurateurs get on the blower now!
Ovens Farm www.ovensfarmvineyard.com
2019 Ovens Farm Vineyard, Solaris £14.00 (£84.00 for 6 bottles)
Alvarinho-shaped (yes, Portuguese not Spanish), with faint rhubarb tones and bracing acidity and this makes it a serious wine for complex gastronomic creations!
Oxney Organic www.oxneyestate.com
2017 Oxney Organic, Classic Pinot Meunier £37.00
This is a simply stunning wine and only 533 bottles were made. It is a love song to the Pinot Meunier variety and this grape is worth making a fuss about (see my recent article in Vineyard Magazine article). If there was one sparkler I would show a sceptical foreigner right now, this moment, to demonstrate that we can make world-class sparklers and have fun at the same time, this is it.
2020 Oxney Organic Estate, Rosé Single Estate £18.00
70% Pinot Meunier and 30% Pinot Noir make the fiercest and most combative young rosé of the season. I tasted it straight out of the bottle, then decanted it and then tried it a day later. At every step, it softened and expanded on the palate. Tangy, bright, genuine and unafraid, this is a thrilling wine.
2016 Raimes, Blanc de Noirs £35.00
Made from 52% Pinot Noir and 48% Pinot Meunier and I have to tell you (swearword approaching), I bloody love this wine! Full-flavoured, packed with ripe fruit, but also dry, grippy and noble. In spite of the exuberance, this is a very smart wine with a slightly larger frame than most but it still retains sensational balance. This is a magical wine!
2015 Raimes, Classic £30.00
Made from a blend of 55% Chardonnay, 28% Pinot Meunier and 17% Pinot Noir, this is a chewy, ripe, full and showy with quite a rich patisserie feel and exotic flashes. While this is an exuberant fellow, it is still balanced, so unlike all of the tense wines out there, this one is ‘reclining on a chaise longue’, so crack on!
2017 Rathfinny, Blanc de Blancs Brut £39.50
9333 bottles made, 36 months ageing, absolutely delicious and a wine that plays a clever game of being juicy but also cleansingly tart. Well-balanced and enticing with a firm, lemony theme and yet there is beautiful creaminess here without being too unctuous or overpowering, this is a superbly well-managed wine and it is on allocation only, so get in the queue!
2017 Rathfinny, Classic Cuvée Brut £29.50
The blend is made up of 65% Pinot Noir, 18% Chardonnay and 17% Pinot Noir. Crumbs, the back label set you up for palate fireworks (what is ‘baby ginger’?), but ultimately, this is a smooth, creamy, fabulously appointed wine with a slightly dryer finish than the BdeB and this is a signal that it needs more age. While the talented squad would like every wine to be drinking on release, this is one with a welcoming and generous start and then a very much more strict and marshalled finish and this is good news for us all.
Roebuck Estates www.rosbuckestates.co.uk
2016 Roebuck Estates, Rosé de Noirs £40.00
Made from 100% Pinot Noir and unbelievably commanding on the palate, this is a very dry and lean wine but it has stunning purity and a wondrous redcurrant theme. Vivacious and ultra-refreshing, if you happen to have a cellar or any way of storing wine ins a cool place for a year or two, this is a dead cert!
2019 Sharpham, Pinot Noir £19.00
These chaps have always known how to make Pinot and as every year passes, their wines have become more and more serious. We have already moved on from what I call the ‘Beaujolais-phase’, where you simply just slot it down the moment it hits the table. We have now moved into the ‘calm down and let it mellow’ era, which is not as exciting for 2021 holiday consumers, but epic if they can keep this wine until 2022, which is unlikely! Damned if you do… I am sure the wizards at Sharpham, soon to be renamed as Sandridge Barton Wines, will figure it out!
2020 Simpsons, Gravel Castle Chardonnay £17.00 ( £102 for a 6 bottle case – the website shows sold out on the night before publication!)
There are a number of wines here that are approaching a mention in this piece, but my favourite wine, and it has been so for a good few years, is Gravel Castle. Lovely, pinched and nicely controlled this is a shimmering beauty and you must find it – it cannot possibly be sold out!
Somerby Vineyards www.somerbyvineyards.com
???? Somerby Vineyards, Magna Carta 1215 Reserve Rondo
I find this website impossible to navigate around and I have no idea whatsoever if this wine is vintage or not (hence the ????), but despite these impediments, I really like the sample which I received and so I have written down the sparse information on the label and I will add that it tastes like a lighter version of a Madiran, with deep earthy fruit and potting compost feel, not bad balance and a grippy and dry finish. It is unique!
Urban Foxes Winery www.urbanfoxeswinery.com
2017 Urban Foxes Rosé Sparkling £35.00
With a very pale colour and a very fine, smooth and creamy texture with a stunning, frothy mousse, this is a super-delicate wine made from 100% Pinot Noir. I cannot understate just how amazing this wine is. It is the finest debut rosé I have tasted in this country!
2015 Urban Foxes Blanc de Blancs £30.00
Made from 100% Pinot Blanc this is a strict and adroit wine with a disarmingly honeyed colour and a firm, steely, direct feel. Lovely length and a touch of glamour on the finish make this a sensational treat and a wine that confounds the senses.
2020 Vagabond Winery, Ortega £15.00
I tasted an unfinished sample so, hey, let’s be clear that anything could happen, but all I want you to do is to put a diary date for when the 2019 trips over to the 2020 vintage because it is a slick, smooth, brilliantly balanced wine with a delicious texture and enough floral excitement on the perfume and palate exoticism to make you go nuts! Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
2020 Vagabond Winery, Pinot Précoce £?
Sorry – another preview. This is unmissable. See my Vineyard Magazine article!
Wayfarer Wines www.wayfarerwines.com
2019 Wayfarer Wines, Pilgrims Way Pinot Gris £18.00
Super clean, fit and tidy, this is a lovely, smooth wine with just enough buoyancy to keep it up before the crisp acidity comes in a gently scours the palate – yum!
2019 Wayfarer Wines, Wandering Wayfarer Bacchus £18.00
Nettle and elderflower lead the way with a super-lean and bright chassis. This is a superb aperitif wine.
2019 Wayfarer Wines, Pilgrims Way Pinot Noir Rosé £18.00
There are few discernible rosé notes here aside from the raspberry leaf perfume and sexy colour. Otherwise, this is a white wine-shaped fellow with a faint summer pudding silhouette.
Westwell Wines www.westwellwines.com
2013 Westwell, Blanc de Noirs £35.00
There cannot be many bottles left from the 500 created because this is a sensational wine with a creamy, herbal, chalky backdrop to glorious ripe Pinots Noir and Meunier fruit. Superbly complex and so English in its epic stance on the palate, I love this wine.
2019 Westwell, Ortega £16.00
Lovely and peachy with hints of mandarin peel and rhubarb, this is a deliciously dry and totally bracing wine with stunning poise – read all about it in my MoneyWeek article.
2019 Westwell, Ortega Amphora £25.00 – thrilled to read this is sold out! It is one of the ten most impactful and memorable English wines I have ever tasted.
As a last note – there were around twenty wines that were on this list, based on my tastings held earlier this year, and they have sold out on their various websites. While I am sorry not to add my thoughts about these wines, I am delighted they have sold through as they surely deserved to do!