The summer of 2015 was not spectacular in Hampshire, but it was long and dry and the Chardonnay it produced was out of this world. Anne Krebiehl MW hears first hand from Jenkyn Place’s Camilla Jennings how this led the English winery to make its first ever Blanc de Blancs, under the watchful eye, as always, of consultant winemaker Dermot Sugrue. Jennings explains how the brief was to make a wine that had great elegance but also approachability – being able to be drunk in all manner of situations.
“I think that another few months of bottle age will mellow it more. It might be just the ticket for the smoked salmon come Christmas,” writes Krebiehl.
In the slightly incongruous, tropical-themed surroundings of London’s Mandrake Hotel, Jenkyn Place launched its first ever Blanc de Blancs from the 2015 vintage from Chardonnay grown at their Hampshire-based estate. So far, the estate which was first planted in 2004, had offered a Classic Brut Cuvée, a Rosé and a Blanc de Noirs, but the quality of their 2015 Chardonnay harvest compelled them to create this special vintage bottling.
Camilla Jennings, daughter of founder Simon Bladon, explained: “We are very small, so it all depends on the year – and making a Blanc de Blancs means taking Chardonnay away from the other wines, but in 2015 the grapes were spectacular, so we decided to make this wine. 2015 was not especially hot, but it was a long, dry summer. It had all the conditions we need.”
The Jenkyn Place wines are made by the Irish supremo of English sparkling winemaking, Dermot Sugrue. He partially fermented the base wines in oak and all went through full malo-lactic fermentation before spending four years on lees. The dosage is at 8 g/l.
“Dermot manages to get that Jenkyn Place character into the glass year after year,” Jennings noted. That character, she said, means “being very elegant but also very approachable.” She channels not just a little of Madame Lily Bollinger when she says: ”You can have it with food or without food, indoors or outdoors, it is a very happy, fresh wine – and dry, that’s how we like it.”
In fact, Jennings is convinced that the wine fulfils a destiny of Jenkyn Place, the historic house and farm that the family moved to in 1997: “Before the land was a vineyard, it was a hop-field. It was leased out to a farmer who grew hops there for years. When he gave up, my father who is from a farming background in Yorkshire, wanted to grow things. The old hop field turned out to have the right aspect and the right soil and it all started from there. The land is destined to make people happy, to make really traditional drinks,” she says with a big smile.
Jenkyn Place Blanc de Blancs 2015
The restrained nose initially has a lactic streak which soon morphs into a hint of blossom honey. On the palate both creaminess and very English briskness are immediately apparent. The slender, harmonious body already offers glimpses of chalky depth but what stands out is its wonderfully bracing briskness that turns into a very lemony, bright finish. I think that another few months of bottle age will mellow it more. It might be just the ticket for the smoked salmon come Christmas.