Silverhand owns the largest vineyard in the UK at a colossal 500 acres; it has already been producing a Prosecco-style sparkling called Bramble Hill for M&S. So what does the future hold? The Buyer’s Victor Smart tasted through the new range of its wines including the still white Solaris, a Blanc de Blancs, another Prosecco-style wine, Silver Reign, and the Traditional Method fizz called KYNG that retails for a cool £249 a bottle or £395 with Norman Foster-designed packaging.
“Bold, audacious, ambitious, Silverhand is a winery we will be hearing a lot more of,” writes Victor Smart.
There is an awful lot going on at the new Silverhand Estate vineyard in Kent. There’s the launch of its full range of wines alongside Silver Reign, its English rival to all-pervasive Prosecco. There is the first taste of its KYNG prestige cuvée. Then, the plan to build a ground-breaking £30m wine tourism centre designed by Lord Norman Foster – if and when this gets planning consent. And, lastly, there is an epic wine cooler-cum-package for KYNG, again designed by Foster.
So let’s start with the basics. Located in Luddesdown, Kent, Silverhand has established the largest single vineyard in the UK, covering an area of more than 500 acres. It’s organic and regenerative – the land used to be simple agricultural fields.
As we all know, you need deep pockets to start up a winery. And behind Silverhand is a billionaire – Mark Dixon, who built his wealth from the flexible-workplace company Regus. His MDCV company owns other wine estates in the UK and France, including Château de Berne, the popular Provence rosé.
Silverhand’s motto is The Future Is Sparkling. It could equally be, “go big, or go home.” Why wait to build your brand? Or until wine tourists demand to visit your winery? No, the company is building it all now, confident that in five years or so it will be reaping the rewards.
The launch event very much reflects this expansive ethos. It’s a black-tie dinner at the London Hilton on Park Lane and we have speeches from wine luminaries Nicola Bates, the new CEO of WineGB, and Helena Nicklin, co-founder of the Three Drinkers.
We start with the star attraction, the prestige cuvée KYNG 2018 (£249 a bottle, or £395 a bottle with high-end packaging) which is having its first outing. This arrives in its bespoke Foster-designed wine-cooler (it doesn’t make much sense to call it mere package) that is truly architectural in its heft and scale. The effect is to make the bottle and label designs across the range look a bit staid.
KYNG is made in the traditional Champagne method, has spent five years on the lees and is 100% Pinot Noir with a dosage of 9g/l. It is gastronomic, with fine aromatics, hints of honey and citrus with a pleasing length and complexity. We are paring it with beef carpaccio, served with “mushroom ketchup” and pickled radish. The hope clearly is that it becomes a modern classic.
Then on to poached John Dory, saffron pearl potato and braised baby gem, with lemon and caper sauce. The still Solaris white (£17 a bottle) with hints of stone fruit served alongside this can’t compete with the far pricier sparkler, the Blanc de Blancs 2018 (£45 a bottle). With a fine mousse and great mouthfeel, this zero-dosage Chardonnay boasts notes of brioche, lemon and white peach.
As we head for the dessert of dolce mousse with apple centre gel on chocolate sponge we come on to the winery’s one sparkling wine that is not made by the traditional method. Instead Silver Reign (£17 a bottle) is made in steel tanks, just like Prosecco, that wine much-loved by punters and much-derided by wine snobs. Silverhand proudly describes this on the label as being made by the Charmat method. Silver Reign is Pinot Noir 20%, Meunier 20% and Chardonnay 60% with a dosage of 13g/l. The winery’s winemaker, Theo Cullen, has evidently been making Champagne in a Procesco style. Starting with a blank canvas, he has the opportunity to democratise access to the iconic three varietals that are the mainstay of Champagne.
This is a lively, aromatic fizz with a good freshness and fruit, aromas of green apple and decently persistent bubbles. At £17 a bottle it is at a crucial price point: it will be competing with a few pricier Proseccos and will face direct competition from the cheaper supermarket Champagnes, some of which we know are surprisingly good.
Has it got what it takes? Certainly, it’s appealing, refreshing easy drinking, combining both quality and affordability. Silverhand already produces white label wines like this under the name Bramble Hill for Marks and Spencer (£16 a bottle).
Bold, audacious, ambitious, Silverhand is a winery we will be hearing a lot more of.