Wednesday Wines – Episode 175 – An English Wine Newsflash!

I was fortunate to taste a handful of sneak preview English wines the other day, and six were worthy of particular note.  Some of these wines have yet to hit the market, so I have listed the pricing for the previous vintages.  The website addresses are all correct, so keep your eyes peeled for these new wines hitting the market.

Biddenden Vineyards

2022 Biddenden Vineyards, Gamay Noir, Estate Grown (£22.50, www.biddendenvineyards.com). 

I have long been a fan of this terrific Gamay, and this newly released 2022 is a beauty.  With bright red cherry fruit, lashings of fresh herb detail, a super-smooth texture, and a superbly delicious, teasingly refreshing finish, this is a brilliant wine that should be served at every al fresco party this summer.  In terms of how this wine compares to Cru Beaujolais, a much-loved category in my life, it is a more red-fruit-focussed wine with, seemingly, more energy and brightness than some of the finest French Gamays!  18/20

2022 Biddenden Vineyards, Gribble Bridge Dornfelder (£16.40, www.biddendenvineyards.com).

Darker, more intense than the Gamay, this Dornfelder was once the ‘favoured red child’ at Biddenden Vineyards until the Gamay turned up and cast a shadow over this boisterous little wine.  It wears the Gribble Bridge label and sits in a traditional bottle instead of the glamorous flute awarded to the beautiful Gamay.  But GBD stands tall. It has the benefit of experience, recognition, history, and reputation, and it capitalises on these well-earned traits in the glorious flavour in the glass.  Remember that this wine weighs in at six pounds less than the wonderful Gamay, further accentuating its allure. So, after this preamble, here is the killer blow – this wine is utterly delicious with black cherry fruit, amazing florals and hedgerow details, and a heavenly, silky texture.  Regarding food pairing, this is a more talented wine than the sexy Gamay.  These wines are siblings, not cousins, and they both belong in your wine rack. One taste and you will be as convinced as I am!  17.5/20 

Itasca Wines

Ben Smith at Itasca Wines makes the following wines for his label, Penn Croft, as well as a couple of other estates.  See below a quartet of notable new releases.

2022 Thorrington Mill Vineyard, Bacchus (the 2021 vintage is £19.00, www.thorringtonmill.co.uk).

This is a vinous and rich style, as opposed to a leaner and ‘nettle-y’ wine, and it offers an intriguing perfume and gorgeous, layered palate.  Ripe, smooth, indulgent, and long, this is a welcome, new breed of more textural and rewarding Bacchus.  Winemaker Ben Smith is no stranger to building complexity and depth into lean-framed white wines, and he has done a sterling job here with gentle oak augmentation that is virtually invisible, which is how I like it.  17.5/20

2022 Penn Croft, Village Bacchus (£18.00, www.pencroftvineyards.com).

This is another classic Mr. Smith white wine and it is a brand new creation.  Again, the structure and density of the fruit belie the discreetly floral nose.  It is so nice to taste a wine with genuine charisma and uniqueness because it gives consumers a story and a flavour to hang onto.  There is more to come with this ‘Village’ wine, too, because the acidity is relatively adroit, allowing for development over the next couple of years.  While this is not as layered or as intense as the ‘Reserve’ wine, it is a thrilling aperitif style that acts as an ambassador for its big brother.  17.5/20

2022 Penn Croft, Bacchus (the 2021 vintage is £23.00, www.pencroftvineyards.com).

Just brilliant.  This is an incredible ‘Reserve’ Bacchus with superbly suave, long, layered fruit over refreshing themes of cucumber, fresh herbs, and ripe lemons.  This beautiful wine could happily sit on any dining room table, accompanying any starter you care to rustle up with any wine lover you know present.  Ben uses extremely careful oak fermentation for one-quarter of the fruit to augment the elegance of the fruit, adding hidden depth and intensity.  This is a glorious wine.  18/20

2022 Missing Gate Vineyard, Sauvignon Blanc (the 2021 vintage is £21.00, www.missinggate.com).

Only a few English Sauvignon Blancs pass muster with me, and Missing Gate has shot into contention with its delightful, bright, and refreshing character.  While the nose and palate are open and citrusy, the superb mid-palate depth and raspy, chalky finish remind me of top-flight Menetou-Salon!  The extra dimension of fruit, adding gravitas to the core, is remarkable, and this comes from 80% of the wine being fermented in neutral 500L barrels with 20% going through malolactic fermentation and further lees ageing.  These considered techniques add invaluable texture, making this wine complete. It is a glimpse of the future for this grape variety in the UK.  17.5/20