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The wines of Denbies: the UK's largest vineyard 

Website:  www.denbiesvineyard.co.uk  

Denbies is the largest physical vineyard in the UK, although itís not the UKís largest producer (that honour goes to Chapel Down, who buy in a large proportion of their grapes).

The estate, consisting of 627 acres (253 hectares), 200 of which are woodland, was purchased by Adrian White in 1984. It was then mostly farmland, but encouraged by geologist and Dorking resident Professor Richard Selley, Adrian decided to plant a vineyard on the south facing slopes.

This is the north Downs, so the soils are quite chalky. Currently, there are 265 acres (107 ha) of vines, which by English standards is an enormous area.

As well as the vineyards, Denbies boasts an impressive winery and visitors' centre. Indeed, 80% of the wine made here is sold through the visitors' centre which 450 000 people visit each year.

Quality has been criticised in the past. Initially, when Denbies was established, it received a lot of advice from Germany, and some of the varieties planted werenít the best. But this has improved in recent years. The two biggest challenges are in the vineyard. First, frost is a big worry, particularly in the lower lying vineyard plots. Second, the yields can be very low, and Denbies canít produce enough wine to satisfy demand. They are selling everything they make, whereas 20 years ago when they started out they were almost giving the wine away.

Denbies Pinot Rose Sparkling Wine 2005
Soft, sweet, herby nose with a buttery edge. The palate is rounded, fruity and creamy with a gently herby edge. Low dosage: just 2.5 g/litre. 84/100

Denbies Greenfields Cuvee Sparkling Wine 2003
Warm, attractive toasty nose with a bit of caramel character. The palate is quite fresh and fruity with a slightly herbal edge. Good balance: an appealing fizz 88/100

Denbies Greenfields Cuvee Sparkling Wine 2004
Tight and herbal on the nose with a blast of sulfur. The palate is crisp and quite austere with sulfur dioxide evident. Quite dry. 83/100

Denbies Whitedowns Cuvee Seyval Blanc 2004
Very attractive, fruity, appley nose. Cidery palate is fresh and brightly fruity. Crisp, fruity and appealing with subtle greenness. 85/100

Denbies Seyval/Reichensteiner 2006 (this will become a Whitedown)
Herby and fresh on the nose with bright fruit. Very fresh, crisp and herby with freshness, too. 84-86/100

Denbies Bacchus 2007
Very attractive aromatics with a bit of muscat-like character and some fresh grassy greenness. Lovely density on the palate, which is fresh but a tiny bit hollow. Still, it's a delicious wine. 88/100

Denbies Ortega 2006
Barrel fermented. Lovely aromatic grassy nose: quite tight and green with soome toastiness. Really nice fruit. Quite savoury with a subtle creaminess. 87/100

Denbies Schoenberger 2006
6 g/litre residual sugar. Rounded, fruity and fresh with nice fruit and subtle greenness. Aromatic and fresh, this is delicious. 87/100

Denbies Hillside Chardonnay 2006
Barrel fermented. Lovely tooasty, creamy, barrel ferment nose with vanilla and herb notes. The palate has herby fruit coupled with creamy oak. Quite stylish but a bit herbal. The oak isn't terribly well integrated and it's quite buttery. 82/100

Denbies Hillside Chardonnay 2003
Creamy, toasty nose is quite smooth with some sweetness. The palate is rich and toasty with a lovely mealy character. There are some nice rounded tropical fruit notes, too. Really impressive effort from the warmest ever vintage here. 90/100

Denbies Yew Tree Pinot Noir 2003
A bright cherryish wine with appealing vibrant fruit and good acidity. Appealing cherry fruit is the dominant theme. Light and bright. 87/100

Wines tasted 04/08  

see also: pictures from Denbies

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