It was one of the hottest days of the year and it was hotly anticipated – the day WineGB held its first showcase trade and press tasting since you-know-what. Chef and sparkling wine expert Roger Jones went to catch up with some old faces and to see how the British wine industry is continuing to evolve and excel, but it was also an opportunity to discover some new wineries and plenty of new cuvées. Whitehall Vineyard was a new producer, specialising in still wines, sparkling champ Dermot Sugrue had some impressive new cuvées, and Hattingley’s still wines were just some of Roger’s many highlights. And how about Multi-Vintage as a more positive way of describing Non Vintage?
“There is no question that Nyetimber has helped the industry hugely, and continues to excel in the sparkling wines that they produce, especially their ability to hold stocks back and release when perfect to drink,” writes Jones.
There were plenty of familiar faces and wines at this year’s WineGB showcase.
New to me, however, was www.whitehallvineyard.co.uk. The family’s farm has been in existence since 1894, but the vineyard was only planted in 2017. This is definitely a family affair, with both daughters, Madeline and Charlotte working with dad, Peter Self on this project. Peter’s background is in farming and running one of the leading destination garden centres in the South West and Wales.
With a farming business mindset, Peter is concentrating on still wines, rather than tying up his stock in sparkling, and what a wise decision. I was bowled over by the quality of these English still wines, full of character and flavour, and look forward to seeing these evolve as the vines age.
Whitehall Bacchus 2020
Soft perfume, elegant, clean and focused, quince and white stone fruit and a hint of elderflower.
Whitehall Madeline May Chardonnay 2020
Rather refined, delicate stone fruit and in the English format, slightly under ripe (in a good way) to give it a clean freshness and fresh acidity; more of a crisp, clean, Petit Chablis style.
Whitehall Charlotte May Rose 2020
Dornfelder 55%, Pinot Noir 32%, Chardonnay 2%, others 11%. Raspberries and Kent cherries, lovely refreshing mouthfeel with a clean, fresh aftertaste.
Whitehall Pinot Noir 2018 and 2019
The 2018 was fresh and bright more akin to a good Beaujolais, whilst the 2019 was more elegant with darker berries, truffles and silky mouthfeel, showing the evolvement of these Pinot vines. Both with 15% Ronda.
Whitehall Nethercote Hill 2018
Ronda 60% Pinot Noir 40% Hats off to an excellent Ronda blend, pure raspberries and clean strawberries, touch of tannin to give it structure, lingers on the palate with a finish of cherries, who knew Ronda could be so exciting?
Some of my WineGB sparkling favourites…
Over on the sparkling side, we continue to see all our favourite vineyards excel in their efforts to get English Sparkling to the top.
Together with Emma Rice (winemaker/director at Hattingley) these two super star winemakers splash their love across so many vineyards on our shores and Dermot is unstoppable in his quest for the best. His day job at Wiston Estate, with a multitude of contract work is balanced as he evolves his own Sugrue South Downs brand, and oh how he has evolved and developed these superlative bubbles.
Sugrue Cuvee Boz Blanc de Blancs 2015
No oak ageing in this, fresh, pure and so seamless, hitting perfection. His first Blanc de Blancs, in tribute to his late brother, delicate citrus, white floral nuances, the extended time on lees gives it that texture finesse and balance. Grapes were purchased from Jenkyn Place in Hampshire. (Incidentally the vineyards here have now been leased to the nearby Itasca Wines based at Penn Croft Vineyard – Ed.)
Sugrue ZODO Zero-Dosage MV (Multi Vintage)
Finally we are getting to grips with the negative wording of Non Vintage, and here Dermot states MV on the label. This is a pure delight a stunning wine, such purity, based on the ‘Trouble with Dreams’ label but with no dosage. This is one of the best I have tried, touch of Granny Smith, that perfect chalk with a hint of saline and slips down so easily, leaving a beautiful delivery note of perfection on your palate.
Sugrue The Trouble with Dreams 2015
60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir. His classic blend, this has texture in abundance, it is focused has that lovely stone fruit balanced with citrus peel, some aged oak barrels, giving it that brioche, meaty texture.
Sugrue Cuvée Dr Brendan O’Regan MV
Dermot calls this his Prestige Cuvée, aged in oak barrels and made to age, I look forward to trying this in the future, luckily I bought some for my cellar.
There is no question that Nyetimber has helped the industry hugely, and continues to excel in the sparkling wines that they produce, especially their ability to hold stocks back and release when perfect to drink.
Nyetimber Classic Cuvee Magnum 2010
Pinot Noir 51%, Chardonnay 36%, Pinot Meunier 13%. With a suggested retail price of £85 for this 11 year in Magnum, this should be on everyone’s Christmas present list. Brioche, toasty, hint of truffles then a wave of freshness from the fruit, rather special.
Nyetimber Blanc de Blancs 2014
Delicate refined bubbles, delicate just-baked brioche aromas, lime curd, touch of Madagascan vanilla pods, Provence white skinless peaches, lingering finish.
Nyetimber 1086 Prestige Cuvee 2010
Chardonnay 45%, Pinot Noir 44%, Pinot Meunier 11%. Rare treat to try this outstanding wine, perfectly balanced, elegant, and you certainly know you are having a superb experience as the tiny bubbles dance on the palate, with a nutty caramel background evolving with the fruit, shouting out to be matched to the finest English grey leg partridge with wild mushrooms.
Over at Hattingley the sparkling wines speak for themselves, do try the Kings Cuvée (a nod to Krug, a tipple winemaker Emma Rice first drank in her youth) but I was hugely impressed with both their still wines.
Hattingley Still Rosé 2020
Pinot Noir 49%, Pinot Noir Precoce 45%, Pinot Meunier 6%. Fresh red berries with a classic English strawberries-and-cream feel, but with a crisp dryness to keep it in check.
Hattingley Still Chardonnay 2020
Wow, a beautiful, clean, precise Chablis style, from a great vintage – a class act. However, there were also two new sparklings that I had not tried and equally impressed especially for its value at a retail price of £19.
Hattingley The English Gent 2019
Bacchus 74%, Pinot Gris 26%. Fresh and forward with nice acidity, freshness, easy drinking, vibrant and aromatic.
Hattingley The English Lady 2019
Pinot Precoce 67%, Pinot Noir 33%. Full of fresh red berries, elegant and delicate, perfect with an autumn BBQ or just roast chicken.
There were many other stars such as Digby’s Vintage Rosé 2014, Gusbourne’s 2018 Blanc de Blancs from magnum, Hambledon’s Classic Cuvée Rosé, Harrow & Hope’s Blanc de Noirs 2015 and any of Jacob Leadley’s wines from Black Chalk Wine.
A bumper tasting highlighting the exciting position that the English market is at, with way too many outstanding wines to mention in full.