Wednesday Wines – Episode 151 – A Grand Launch for Black Chalk
What a busy week, with launches left, right, and centre. Today, I have brought you four wines from the tremendous Black Chalk Winery in Hampshire. I am told that perhaps four more wines will come from the 2020 harvest, including a pair of Blanc de Blancs, a Blanc de Noirs, and even a single vineyard creation, so Jacob and Zoë were undoubtedly busy in this particularly challenging (remember Covid?) vintage!
Black Chalk New Releases – from 1st April 2023, available at www.blackchalkwine.co.uk and fine wine merchants such as The Good Wine Shop, Bottle Apostle and Mother Vine.
Notes from the winemaker / CEO Jacob Leadley – “Black Chalk was founded in 2018, acquiring four Test Valley vineyard sites totalling 12 hectares in early 2020, and completing the winery build in mid-September 2020, just before the first grapes from the harvest were picked. The vineyards comprise 36 different rootstocks, all handpicked and vinified separately before deciding on final blends. The 2020 vintage marks an increase of 56% in volume of these two wines, which will satisfy the growing demand from independents and the on-trade in the UK as well as key international markets, including Japan and Scandinavia.”
2020 Black Chalk, Classic, Hampshire RRP £38 (released 1st April)
39% Chardonnay, 36% Pinot Meunier, 25% Pinot Noir; 12.5% alc; 8.6 g/L acid; 9.0 g/l dosage
With a production of some 25000 bottles, this is now a significant wine in our market as opposed to an artisanal creation, and so it is heartening to report that this is an even more attractive and engaging wine than the delicious 2018 (see my MoneyWeek article 23/12/22). With slightly more volume of fruit and a more dramatic backbone of acidity, this is already a gorgeous wine, but there is more to come. The balance of the generosity and plushness of fruit with the stern grip and traction on the finish is simply sublime. No malolactic fermentation was used here, resulting in a wine with considerable tension underpinning a core of genuinely sensational fruit. 18.5/20 (Drink now – 2030)
2020 Black Chalk, Wild Rose, Hampshire RRP £43 (released 1st April)
42% Pinot Meunier, 41% Pinot Noir, 17% Chardonnay; 12.5% alc; 8.1 g/L acid; 10.0 g/l dosage
This is an extraordinary wine. From the incredibly pale and mesmerising pink hue to the scintillating perfume, this is a crystalline beauty and one of the most arresting and memorable English rosé sparklers I have tasted. The beautifully ripe grapes show uncommon tenderness and sophistication, and, like the Classic above, an acid line sends a shiver down the spine. Cranberry and redcurrant notes keep this on the tangy side of the red fruit fence, and there is an ever-constant pinch of crispness that keeps your nerve endings raw and alert. The overall experience is tremendous; I do not doubt this will be regarded as a pivotal rosé sparkler this year. 18.5/20 (Drink now – 2028)
2022 Black Chalk, Little White Lie Chardonnay, Kent RRP £33 (to be released in late May)
100% Chardonnay; 13% alc; 6.4 g/L acid; 1.2 g/l sugar
The ‘little white lie’ in question is that this wine comes from outside Hampshire’s borders, in Kent! Apparently, this parcel of fruit was too good to turn down, and when you taste it, you will see why. With 16% of the wine spending four months in French oak, there is little more to report from a winemaking point of view, so what you are tasting is sensational naked fruit. In 2022, England enjoyed its warmest summer since 1884, and this ripeness, coupled with our trademark stiletto-sharp acidity, has resulted in a textbook English Chardonnay with globally serious appeal. Minty fresh, silky-smooth, layered and sultry, this wine will open slowly and reveal its full hand in years to come. For now, it is a wine you must track down and put in your cellar. Patience will reward you, and if you cannot resist opening a bottle to see how it’s going, you will feel both impossibly guilty at the same time as, no doubt, overwhelmingly elated that you have some stock in your collection! 18+/20 (Drink now – 2027)
2022 Black Chalk, Dancer in Pink, Hampshire RRP £24 (released 1st April)
63% Pinot Noir, 32% Pinot Précoce, 5% Pinot Gris; 12% alc; 5.7 g/L acid; <1.0 g/l sugar
I was blown away by the 2021 vintage of Dancer in Pink (see my Vineyard Magazine article in June 2022 on this website), but this 2022 vintage is in a different league. Only 4000 bottles were made, and I am confident this stock will be snapped up at record speed because it is nothing short of sensational. With more elegance and acidity, this is a more refined and sophisticated wine than the juicy, immediately attractive 2021. It is tense, balletic, firm and serene, and it will undoubtedly blossom in a couple of months, shedding some of its reserve, in perfect time for our English summer. The silky mid-palate is loaded with rose petals, rhubarb and red cherry notes and these heady flavours are given a twist of white pepper and ginger spice on account of the careful addition of Pinot Gris. All in all, this is a glorious rosé, completing a Fantastic Four for Black Chalk. 18.5/20 (Drink now – 2025)