Sunday, March 23, 2014

English Wine

There is a lot good to say about English wine, its often better than you think it is... but you have to be careful about what you choose and where from. My favourites are Nyetimber, Sharpham, Chapel Down, Camel Valley and Ridgeview. The best of English is sparkling (or Espa as I call it). I had Nyetimber at my wedding, which was a great choice for something different, less alienating than Champagne and has more oomph than prosecco. Try the Classic Cuvee.

About 18 months ago a friend took me to Highdown Estate for a tour of the vineyard and a tasting afterwards. Unfortunately they don't make sparkling so we tried their white, rose and red wines instead. It's a shame that all the wines we tried that year (it was a particularly bad year for sunshine hours, so less ripening of grapes),  which meant less flavour complexity, and high acidity. I had confidence in the winemaker, so bought a not-available (i.e. kept for sale to family members and friends only) bottle of Albert's Reserve Pinot Noir. It was suggested in hush tones that I lay it down for a year to allow the fruit to develop. I did so by placing it at the back of my wine store, and opened it 18 months later. I think I left it too long.

My tasting notes are below, and the right flavours are there for a good pinot noir, but it was past its best and had quite a watery consistency. My suggestion would be to support your local vineyards and try their wines, but be careful about opening them at the right time (try a year after harvest). If you're not a risk-taker,  my suggestion would be to stick to the bigger names (above) and get to know the sparklings. There really are some great English wines, but you have to be willing to experiment. I have two Sharphams in my cupboard, a white and a rose, and I can't wait until the sun is next out to get tasting those. I'll let you know how I get on!

Albert's Reserve Highdown Estate Pinot Noir (can't remember price)
Ruby colour with low intensity.
Low intensity on the nose, clean, with a hay and barnyard aroma.
Low acidity, low tanning, medium alcohol.
Flavours of water - quite a watery consistency and low intensity flavours.
Raspberry, cranberry, damp, wet soil, mushrooms still in the ground, supermarket strawberries.
Would guess it is inexpensive (it wasn't), and past its best.

Quite a shame, its my fault, and would be willing to give it another go... that is, if they sold this to the public at the time it was ready to drink. Not sure I'd be willing to wait another 18 months!

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