An English white Pinot Noir and an Aussie Topaque

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An English white Pinot Noir and an Aussie Topaque

Headed over to Denbies wine estate today, in Dorking, Surrey, for a meeting of Elevage. Elevage is the organization I’m involved with that runs the International Sparkling Wine Symposium (ISWS). The last one was held last November, and we are in the stages of planning the next. (If you’d like to get hold of a copy of the proceedings of the last symposium, they are available at

So John Worontshack, Rachel Child, Mike Florence, Bryony Wright and I had a good session discussing options for next year, followed by a lunch. We had a couple of wines with our food, and two deserve some comment. The first is made by John and Mike at Litmus, and it’s an English white wine made from barrel fermented Pinot Noir. It’s probably the best still English wine I’ve had. From the 2011 vintage, it is ripe (natural alcohol of 12.5%) and was fermented in oak. It’s really well balanced and has some richness, but also precision and freshness. It tastes a bit like a top quality still Champagne. It will be available soon from independents priced around £25. I reckon it will age beautifully.

The second wine was a Topaque  (Muscadelle) from Stanton and Killeen. Fortifieds are one of Australia’s great wine styles. At the Royal Melbourne Wine Show they use specialist judges to taste the fortifieds, but James Godfrey – one of the leading experts of this style – was kind enough to set aside the glasses of the medal-winning wines so I could taste through them in gaps between my judging. There were some truly world class wines on show.

This Stanton and Killeen has an average age of 12 years, so it’s a bit of a baby in fortified terms. But a very tasty baby, beginning to develop some raisin and tea complexity.

Denbies was beautiful today. It was slightly misty, and warm, but the sun was making an effort to break through, and the autumn colours of the leaves were just gorgeous. Such a shame for them that their harvest this year is just 70 tons, compared with an average of 300. Their wines have improved massively over the last couple of years, and they are now among the best of the English wine producers.

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