Try one of our top 10 wines for English Wine Week
PUBLISHED: 09:50 25 May 2018
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Jeremy Dunn, chief wine tutor at Norfolk Wine School shares his favourite English bottles.
English wine production is set to soar from between four to five million bottles to over 10 million bottles a year by 2020. We’ve been making world-class fizz in the south-east for well over a decade, where the cool climate and chalky soils are similar to conditions found in Champagne, France.
I predict an equally exciting future for still English wine. You need look no further than Norfolk and Suffolk to find superb still wines made by young, entrepreneurial winemakers. Yes, prices are high, but so is the quality.
English vineyards operate on a much smaller scale than commercially oriented wineries in countries like Chile or Australia. On a recent visit to one of our local vineyards I was hugely impressed by their use of modern laser-guided winemaking technology mixed with traditional English craftmanship, all underpinned by a quality driven ethos.
The Bacchus grape is England’s answer to Sauvignon Blanc and this cool-climate grape flourishes in Norfolk’s dry climate. The flag bearer for Bacchus is Norfolk’s Winbirri Bacchus, winner of the world’s best white wine from a single grape variety in the Decanter World Wine Awards 2017. The latest 2016 vintage looks every bit as promising, with a complex elderflower scented nose and razor sharp, grassy palate. Buy from the cellar door or website, £14.50.
Another Bacchus that’s tasting great is Norfolk’s Flint Vineyard Bacchus 2017, Harper Wells in Norwich, £15.99. It has an elegant, floral nose and the palate has notes of passion fruit and a tongue tingling lime-laced acidity. The final local wine that makes my top ten is Gifford’s Hall Rosé 2016 from Suffolk. It’s a feather-light, pretty pink with delicate strawberry fruit and good acidity. The ultimate picnic basket wine, Waitrose, £13.99.
Another white variety showing great promise in England is Pinot Gris. Stopham Estate’s Pinot Gris 2015, West Sussex, Harper Wells, £19.99, is the benchmark for this grape variety. An aromatic nose of Asian pear and a hint of spice is followed by a rich, rounded palate that fills the mouth with joy. Down in Devon on the Sharpham Estate they are not afraid to use a touch of oak and the Dart Valley Reserve White 2016 is an intriguing blend of white grapes with a riper stone fruit profile enhanced by a short time ageing in French oak. Available from their website, £13.50.
The cool English climate suits white grapes more than red, however there’s some good Pinot Noir to be found. One of my favourites is from Devon-based Lyme Bay Winery whose 2016 Pinot Noir is made with grapes grown in Essex. It’s a big call to compare any Pinot Noir to a Burgundy, but with ripe cherry and soft red fruits on the nose, a gently oaked palate, good acidity and moderate tannin, this wine is very Burgundian in style! Available from their website, £21.99.
You can’t ignore the sparkling success of home-grown fizz. Try the Bolney Estate Cuvée Rosé, £29.99, from their website (also available at Naked Wines). Delicate salmon pink in colour, this creamy fizz is packed with crushed cranberry and raspberry fruit. Next up, is Chapel Down’s Classic NV Brut from Kent. It’s just like I think an English fizz should be, eschewing the richer Champagne style for a crunchy red-apple palate and a just hint of creaminess in this elegant sparkler. Widely available, £23. Hambledon Classic Cuvée from Hampshire is broader and creamier, more Champagne like, made from a classic mix of Champagne grapes, from The Wine Society, £28. Finally, I’m a huge fan of the Ridgeview Estate in Sussex and their Blanc de Noirs 2013 is something a bit special. Made with juice carefully pressed from red grapes it’s a complex and elegant wine with fine red fruit flavours and superb poise and balance. Limited availability, £40 from their website.
Join us at our Midsummer’s English Wine tasting on June 21 and meet Ben Witchell, winemaker at Norfolk’s Flint Vineyard. www.norfolkwineschool.com