A pattern is clearly developing. In our many recent reports on the current state of British wineries and British wine events, our writers are finding that English and Welsh sparkling wine is now showing exceptionally well (and proving how much has been learned in the past decade) but it is the quality of the still wines that are showing the greatest improvement. Wanting to check this out for himself our very own Phileas Fogg (aka top chef and wine expert Roger Jones) decided to pop into Chapel Down incognito as a wine tourist on a busy and sweltering Bank Holiday Monday. Our ‘mystery quaffer’ was hugely impressed and reports back on which of the latest vintages you should buy.
Chapel Down now produces not only excellent sparkling wine but is evolving its still wine beautifully, writes Jones
With temperatures hitting over 30 degrees we were thankful to have booked the last Wine Tour of the day to taste through a range of Chapel Down wines as a ‘wine tourist’.
The Tasting Room is rather impressive overlooking the pristine vineyards, and was the setting for the tasting for some 30 consumers. Interestingly, on the vineyard tour before the tasting, it was very different to a trade visit, where on this Bank Holiday Monday consumers were attentively following the guide but some were swigging beer at the same time (Chapel Down Curious Beer) and others were smoking; c’est la vie.
Chapel Down is based at Tenterden in Kent, although they own vineyards across Kent and source grapes from Hampshire and Essex. The set up at Chapel Down is rather impressive with a buzzing “Shop” that highlights not only their products but fine produce and wines from other great British establishments. There are two Tasting Rooms and upstairs there is a bar and restaurant with a superb balcony overlooking the estate. Not quite in the grand scale of Californian estates but for Great Britain a pretty slick affair.
Chapel Down is bringing Bacchus to the nation, they promote it to the consumer as not too dissimilar to Sauvignon Blanc, and certainly on our visit the consumers were gulping this new (to them) “English Sauvignon Blanc” with great vigour.
So how good is Chapel Down Bacchus? … ah well it’s not that cut and dried as they have at least five on offer plus a blend called Flint and a sparkling Bacchus!
Bacchus, 2018, Retail Price £14
Fresh and juicy, clean soft gooseberries, peaches, melon, lots of flavour, they state in their notes for consumers “Great alternative to Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc,” quite right.
Bacchus Reserve, 2015, Retail Price £16 (for the 2016)
A Hunter Valley modern Semillon style, soft herbaceous flavours, textured but fresh, hints of tropical fruit, delicate gooseberry and fresh grass, lush finish.
Tenderden Estate Bacchus, 2018, Retail Price £18
Citrus zesty, touch of elderflower but restrained, juicy and bright with a vibrant finish of citrus and minerality giving it class.
Orange Bacchus, Retail Price £20
Kit’s Coty Bacchus, 2017, Retail Price £25
Guava, peaches, and juicy apricots, hints of tropical fruit, new oak, creamy but fresh and full bodied with a lovely citrus finish.
Chapel Down Flint Dry, 2016, Retail Price £13 (for the 2018)
Eight grape verities including Huxelrebe, Reichensteiner, Schonburger and Bacchus giving this a beautiful nose, textured, layered, balanced, creamy wine with an excellent acidity to cut through and keep it fresh.
And their Chardonnays
Chardonnay, 2015, Retail Price £15
More of a Pinot Gris style with oak, fresh and a bright touch of stone fruit, lychee, nectarine stone; was a crowd pleaser with the consumers
Kit’s Coty Chardonnay, 2014
Beautiful, rich and modern Chardonnay, savoury and full of bright stone fruit, matchstick, flinty and plenty of lees and new oak to help this to age.
Kit’s Coty Chardonnay, 2016, Retail Price £30
Similar to Pernand-Vergelesses, clean but ripe stone fruit, nutty and focused, more restrained than the 2014.
English Rose, 2018, Retail Price £13
Salmon pink, fresh and bright, an excellent Rose – you could never identify this with England because it’s a classic, drier Provence-style Rosé, highlighting English berries. Redcurrants and cream with a crisp, fresh finish.
A brief foray into their sparkling wines
Whilst the Classic Non Vintage Brut (£27 Retail Price) was certainly a big hit with the consumers on the day to me it was a youthful English sparkling, quite fizzy, off dry, soft and biscuity, and in some ways quite vibrant, but needs a bit more time to relax although if the crowds love it who am I to question it.
Three Graces, 2015, Retail Price £35
Restrained elegance, made from the three classic Champagne grapes. I had notes of apple sorbet and dried strawberries with fine baked pastry, lovely balance and slipped down gracefully.
Kits Coty Blanc de Blancs, 2014, Retail Price £40
Hard pressed not to think of this as a Champagne – purity, focused – and so perfect, this is complex in that it is multi-layered with everything perfectly balanced and a joy to drink.
Kit’s Coty Coeur de Cuvee, 2013, Retail Price £100
Hitting out at top dollar this Decanter Gold Award winner – layers of fruit and texture, apples, honey, lemony, creamy with a clean precise acidity, still youthful and evolving. There is a background of depth in a Krugist style.
All in all a wonderful visit on a stunning Summer’s day to the garden of Kent.