Window On Wine is coming over all patriotic in the run up to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee with a focus on English wine. We’re not alone! If you’ve visited a supermarket or the high street recently, you can’t have failed to notice the flags, bunting, crockery and tea-towels. Also, lots of other stuff you never thought you’d need in red, white and blue.
There’s quite a buzz about English wine at the moment. Maybe you saw the recent episode of the BBC’s The Apprentice programme where the teams were tasked with marketing English sparkling wine? The amount of land under vine in the UK is at the highest level recorded, having increased 60% in just five years.
Just a quick aside on terminology – be careful you don’t get English wine and British wine confused. British wine is made from grape juice shipped in as concentrate from abroad, which is then fermented and bottled here. Whereas English wine is the good stuff – with grapes grown and wine made here. One way to tell the difference is by price. British wine is usually very cheap, English wine sadly is not – although many of the retailers have special offers on at the moment.
There’s a lot of competition in the English fizz market, with the best producers giving Champagne a run for its money. I’ve previously reviewed Nyetimber’s Classic Cuvée and so chose another leading producer; Ridgeview and their Cuvée Merret Bloomsbury 2009 for my Jubilee bubbles.
Bloomsbury is a mix of the classic Champagne grapes: Chardonnay (58%); Pinot Noir (30%) and Pinot Meunier (12%). It’s a pale lemon gold colour with vigorous fine bubbles. It’s a delicate and elegant sparkling wine with an appley nose and lemon, mineral and red apple flavours. There’s a light toastiness to the taste too. It has both the typical fresh acidity of a great sparkling wine and the low-ish alcohol too at 12.5%. A lovely aperitif or fizz with which to toast H. M.
Ridgeview wines are quite widely available but I bought my bottle in Waitrose on special offer for £22.99 (20% off until May 29).
W.O.W Factor 7.5
English still wine is slowly emerging from sparkling’s shadow – and you can find some good ones. I’ve reviewed Stanlake Park’s King’s Fumé before and at a recent English Wine trade tasting I very much enjoyed Litmus Element 20 2010. It’s a classy, rich and toasty oak aged Bacchus and Chardonnay blend from Denbies in Surrey. You can find this wine in independent retailers but I am reviewing a Denbies wine which is much more widely available at Tesco – the Finest English White Wine 2010.
This blend of Ortega, Reichensteiner and Chardonnay reminded me of a rather pasty English person abroad. It’s pale and seems a bit overwhelmed. I just didn’t take to it. For me it had a strange aroma – at the same time both delicately floral (possibly elderflower) and metallic. It’s dry with grassy, citrus flavours and fresh acidity – but no length. The Analyst said they would buy and drink it again as a “summer party wine” – fresh enough to quaff on a hot summer’s day. It’s currently priced at £8.79
W.O.W. factor 5.5
Next time, I’ll be reviewing a juicy rosé and a fruity English red.
Update 25 May 2012:
I met one of the winemakers for the Tesco Finest White (reviewed above) yesterday at the London International Wine Fair and explained that I hadn’t been that impressed with this wine. While not ‘over-joyed’ at my comments he quickly opened a bottle of the new 2011 vintage which will be in stores this summer. What a difference – it tasted like it should…much more aromatic, still good acidity and freshness and a much better length. Maybe it’s tougher to be critical with the winemaker stood in front of you – but I genuinely liked this new vintage much more. If you’re trying to spot a bottle on the Tesco shelves then it’s got the same packaging apart from a mention on the label of Bacchus – a grape that does really well in England.