Wednesday Wines – Episode 216 – English Wine Week 15th – 23rd June

Here are a dozen elite English wines that I have tasted recently to celebrate English Wine Week.  None of these have been featured in any of my other columns, and they all sit in this country’s highest echelons of winemaking.

FIZZ

Chalklands NV

NV Simpsons, Chalklands Classic Cuvée (£29.00, www.simpsonswine.com).

Chalklands is too easy to open, pour and adore.  There are no raw edges here, just seamless, generously fruity strawberry and green apple notes perfectly interwoven and topped with an ice-pick fresh finish.  The latest release of this fabulous fizz is the best – so be sure to track down a bottle without delay.

2019 Oxney Organic, Brut (£38.00, www.oxneyestate.com).

Made from the classic three varieties and ringing the till with a near silent £38 ‘ding’, this is one of this piece’s most elegant and sensitively assembled wines.  With admirable restraint and control, this is a classy wine with a seriously elegant streak and a bone-dry finish.  While the mid-palate is pliable, the finish is taut, which means it will appeal to serious fizz fans perhaps more than amateurs!Black Chalk Duo

2020 Black Chalk, Paragon (£65.00, www.blackchalkwine.co.uk).

Made from 100% Chardonnay, Paragon starts bristling with commanding, raw, crystalline fruit, and then it relaxes an inch or two, showing some thrillingly juicy and pliable layers.  You are thankfully granted a glimpse through a chink in the armour, and I imagine that you will not have to ask permission given a year to eighteen months.  This is a sensational wine.

2020 Black Chalk, Inversion (£65.00, www.blackchalkwine.co.uk).

When you release two wines, one a ‘negative’ of the other, you expect tasters to pick their preferred cuvée.  This is mine, but they warrant the same score because they are both ravishing.  This Blanc de Noirs sees the merest hint of oak, which means it retains its super-lean chassis, but the florals sway with faint redcurrant and bitter cherry tones.  With more openness and less self-conscious control, Inversion works wonders with convincing authority.  That said, the trademark non-nonsense Black Chalk acidity looms, ensuring you do not leap into this inquisitive wine too early in its lifetime!

2014 Exton Park, Blanc de Noirs (£65.00, www.extonparkvineyard.com).

Bottled in 2015 and with seven years on its lees before being disgorged in 2022, the merest edge of hardness on the finish here reminds us of the terroir and the strict nature of the glorious Exton Park wines.  The fruit is evocative, impeccably drilled, and resplendent in the pinks and reds of wild hedgerow fruit.  France cannot do this!  I am completely taken with the sensational experience offered by this wine.

2013 Nyetimber, 1086 (£150.00, www.nyetimber.com).

I was a massive fan of the 2010 Nyetimber 1086 release, which showed total class and control from the off.  How a wine with these dimensions can be so well-balanced is beyond me.  So, it was with bated breath that I approached the newly released 2013 vintage.  This is an even more detailed and sensual wine. The depth of fruit is astounding, and, once again, Cherie Spriggs works her magic in inlying the impossibly grand fruit with filigree mouth-watering acidity and verve.  As an aside, I hosted a wine dinner in Geneva at a world-class restaurant last week.  They asked me to pick a Champagne to kick off the evening, and I decided that the most impactful and delicious wine I wanted to introduce to the audience was MV Nyetimber Rosé.  The audience was floored, and the Chef Sommelier was so taken with the flavour he promised to list this incredible wine at the soonest opportunity.  Come on, England!

2013 Nyetimber, 1086 Rosé (£175.00, www.nyetimber.com).

It’s a double bill.  There is no flamboyant tasting note or a boring list of the components or technical specifications.  I have instead decided to write a blunt but significant statement.  This is the UK’s finest rosé.  Yes, it is expensive.  But this wine sits side by side with virtually anything France can offer (see my comment above).

STILL WHITE

Langham Enlightenment

2022 Langham, Search for Enlightenment Chardonnay, Dorset 11% (£23.95, www.langhamwine.co.uk).

There is a lot of worthiness and wokery going on here, and unlike so many wines whose mantras fall flat in the glass, this wine lives up to its messaging.  Using reused bottles, and with only 1143 bottles made from ‘Rows 17-34 Bowling Green Crawthorne Farm’, in case you wanted to know, this Chardy is whole bunch pressed into old French oak and matured for ten months.  What it lacks in mid-palate profundity, it makes up for in sheer cheek, with lashings of attitude and edge, and the result is a statement wine that definitely encourages one to look for enlightenment in this glass.  I think I found some.

Gravel Castle

2023 Simpsons, Gravel Castle Chardonnay (£19.50, www.simpsonswine.com).

Off the charts.  This is a gorgeous, seamless, pithy and refreshing Chardonnay, and the first thing I wrote in my notes when I tasted it was, “This is England’s answer to old-school, pre-climate crisis Chablis”!  Pound for pound, there is immense joy found here at extraordinary value, and it is the finest Gravel Castle (and I have been a fan for a long while) to date. 

Oxney Chard 22

2022 Oxney Organic, Chardonnay (£24.99, www.oxneyestate.com).

I awarded the 2018 vintage of this wine a perfect 20/20 score, and I opened a bottle the other day and smiled like a halfwit.  Nothing is like sticking your neck out and checking to see if everything still looks fantastic four years on!  So, when I say this 2022 is a direct descendant of its ground-breaking ancestor, it is the highest praise possible.  The hints of drama and excellence are present, and while this is still a youthful creation, it is set for glory. 

STILL ROSÉ

Folc 23

2023 Folc, Dry English Rosé (£21.99, www.drinkfolc.com).

I could not get the QR code to work on my bottle, so I cannot regale you with the presumably complex blend that makes this wine so yummy.   While many of the wines in this piece could do with some more age, bizzarely, 2023 Folc is ready to go right now.  Smooth, seamless, creamy and nicely floral, this is a gentle wine with a relaxed air.  So, if you want to put your brain in neutral and properly chill out, this is the wine you need in your glass!

Railway Hill

2022 Simpsons, Railway Hill Rosé (£20.00, www.simpsonswine.com).

I know why I wrote “Parma ham and melon” in my notes, but this might need some explanation!  Of course, melon refers to the spectacularly fleshy palate found in the heart of this delicious Pinot Noir rosé.  The Parma ham note signifies strictness, anti-fruit tones, spice and acidity, which, combined with the fruit, completes the overall flavour.  This is Railway Hill’s finest performance to date, with generosity and silkiness punctuated by teasing acidity.

FIN