At this odd time in our history, it’s nice to have an excuse to celebrate something… Anything! Especially when it comes to food and drink. English Wine Week is here, but I want to use it to shout about the fact that we need to appreciate English wine the rest of the year too. Year on year, English wine production broadens and winemakers get even better at growing grapes in our volatile climate and blending them into excellent wines.
Over the last few years, I believe that we now sip English wines because they can be great, not just because we want to show support to local producers. Obviously eating and drinking local is really important now more than ever and we can do it with pride knowing that English wine can be amongst the best in the world.
I’m not going to bore you with a long list of wines here, as I am fully committed to tempting you towards good English sips from fantastic vineyards throughout the year – Not just this week. So, if you don’t see your favourite drops here, don’t worry, I’ll be shouting about them at some point I’m sure. Right now, I want to share with you a small handful of delicious wines that have made me smile of late.
I want to start off with an outstanding fizz: Cottonworth Classic Cuvée from Hampshire. This elegant stunner is made from the trilogy of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. It’s from the Test Valley and has been lovingly overseen by Hugh Liddell whose family have been farming there for generations. This wine is every bit as good as some Champagnes and it has a lot more character than many bubbly French wines that I’ve sipped recently. It has a rich, buttery nose and this is continued on the palate. The light bubble is delicate on the tongue and allows all the rich brioche character of this wine to come though. But there’s more to it than that. This wine tastes so gently refined and there are hints of tangy stone fruit in there and a beautiful salinity on the finish. For me this stands out as one of the best English sparkling wines being made today.
Cottonworth Classic Cuvée is priced at £31.95 and available from http://www.help4hospitality.com which is a new initiative set up by Berkmann Cellars, which aims to deliver wine direct to customers with 12.5% of the sale donated to the hospitality sector. So, you can buy great wine at the same time as supporting hospitality businesses struggling during the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s a win / win situation!
And so to sparkling rosé! Also from Hampshire, Clare & Jody Scheckter and their talented team at Laverstoke Park Farm have been producing fine sparkling wine for many years. And this is without doubt the finest fizzy English pink I’ve tasted in ages. Laverstoke Park Farm 2013 Vintage Rosé Brut is a biodynamic beauty. It’s full of bright summer berries on the nose and it’s a fruity delight when sipped. Sometimes sparkling rosé lacks the fruitiness that I crave when I want pink, but this wine delivers it in abundance. It is packed with vibrant red berry notes that are balanced out by a rich vanilla character. It’s soft on the palate but has a strikingly crisp texture and a bright finish. If you just taste one sparkling rosé this year, make it this one. You won’t be disappointed.
Laverstoke Park Farm 2013 Vintage Rosé Brut is available Fortnum & Mason, Premium English Wines, Hawkins Bros. Fine English Wines, The Exceptional English Wine Company and Vintage Roots priced from £38.
But what about still wine? Bacchus is a grape that you will see time and time again when perusing English wine online or on the shelves. The grape was created in the 1930s by crossing three grape varieties together. One of the grapes was Riesling, and there’s certainly a Riesling richness to many English Bacchus wines today, often along with a grassy note similar to many new world Sauvignon Blancs.
My favourite example of a Bachuss this year is Adnams English Bacchus from Essex. It’s made by multi award-winning winemaker Liam Idzikowski from grapes grown in the Crouch Valley. It has a vibrant nose of ripe summer gooseberries and white pepper. When you sip, you get mouth-watering grapefruit and lime characters coming through and a green grassy note too. Some Bacchus can taste a bit too strongly of elderflower for my liking, but this one doesn’t, so if you’re looking to avoid flowery wine, go for this! What I like about sipping this wine at this time of year is that it goes so well with all the summer green vegetables out there. Think of all those summer salads that you can make from courgettes, runner beans, broad beans and artichokes. They will go beautifully with this wine. (And don’t forget to get some in the fridge for wild garlic and asparagus season next year!)
Adnams English Bacchus is £79.99 for a case of 6 and is available at www.adnams.co.uk