Spent the day today driving round English vineyards with two Canadian wine peeps, Andrew and Nicole. We visited three of the finest English producers, and each visit was quite special in its own way. Full write ups to come (of course), but for now some quick notes and a few pictures.
First visit was Nyetimber. Probably the most famous English sparkling wine producer, and rightly so. Brad Greatrix showed us around the home vineyard (above) and took us through an extensive tasting. Nyetimber have 150 hectares now, in 8 sites in Sussex (on greensand soils) and two newer sites in Hampshire (on chalk). The wines released so far have all come from greensand, and they show lovely delicacy and detail of fruit. The chalk soils will add structure and acidity to the wines, Brad reckons (they’ve only made wine from them since the 2013 vintage, and these aren’t in the blends yet).
Highlights? The 2010 Classic Cuvee, just released, is every bit as good as the fabulous 2009. The rose is quite special. The 2009 Tillington is profound, and it was nice to have a vertical of both the Blanc de Blancs and Classic Cuvee. In general, the wines here are getting better every year so go for the more recent vintages.
After a lovely pub lunch in Tillington, we headed to Hambledon. Ian Kellett has ambitious plans here, and his focus is on chalk soils and Chardonnay. The wines are pretty spectacular. We looked at the base wine blends from 2014 and they are just lovely. The current releases of the Premiere Cuvee and Classic Cuvee are quite special. Ian reckons that the goal for the English wineries should be for them to take 25% of Champagne’s market share in the UK (currently 33 million bottles) within a decade. He’s amazed that the Champenois aren’t paying more attention to the UK sparkling wine scene, because it is set to become a very serious competitor for this, the leading export market for Champagne, in a relatively short time.
The chalk soils give a lovely acid structure. Kellett’s approach is to take a non-vintage model, which makes a lot of sense.
We had a look at the gravity flow winery, together with its two ultra-cool Cocquard presses, which give an incredible level of control over the pressing stage, which is one of the critical points in fizz production.
The final stop was at Coates & Seely. Nicholas and Virginia Coates allowed us to invade their spectacular home in order for us to hear the story of Coates & Seely and taste their wine. Like Hambledon, these are wines made from grapes grown on chalk, and this gives them a keen acid structure and linearity. Coates & Seely are also aiming at a non-vintage model, and both the regular and rose NV are seriously good wines. Nicholas is very excited about the impending release of the Blanc de Blancs and the Perfide vintage Blanc de Blancs, which he thinks are very special. The pink Perfide is certainly a special wine.
It was a good way to end a really lovely day. I never thought I’d be taking foreign visitors round England’s top wineries like this. How far the English wine scene has come in such a short time, because all three of these producers are making world class wines in my opinion, and they aren’t alone.