** NOW ALL GONE HERE, BUT AVAILABLE DIRECTLY FROM THE VINEYARD. **
In 2011, local couple Jan and Anthea Mirkowski recognised that the foothills of the Chilterns on the outskirts of Henley-on-Thames would provide the ideal terrain and microclimate for viticulture. The steep, south-facing slopes help vines capture the most sunlight: in fact, 30% more sunlight during October, when the grapes are in berry, and the sun low on the horizon, than if the vines were planted on level ground. The slope also causes spring frosts (cold air being denser than warm air) to fall downhill and away from the delicate buds, whilst sufficient air movements along the valley carry away excess humidity, reducing the chance of fungal attack by mildew. Vines prefer well-drained soil, and Fairmile Vineyard lies on the same flinty chalky marl that stretches across South-East England to the white cliffs of Dover, then under the Channel into Northern France. Henley-on-Thames has a similar climate to Northern France, whose capital of the Champagne Region, Epernay, lies just 150 miles south in latitude. The relatively cool nights enable grapes to retain the acidity essential for sparkling wines.
In 2013, they planted the same three grape varieties which traditionally go into Champagne: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay. 12,000 rootstocks were established across 3 hectares using GPS-guided machinery for accuracy and optimum spacing. Three great summers helped the plants establish strong root systems; they then picked their first harvest in 2015 to make white and rosé sparkling wines which reflect the character of Henley's terroir.
Fairmile is a family-owned business committed to promoting the Chilterns’ quality of life, tourism, and the local community. Their logo depicts a rowing oar, which Henley’s Royal Regatta has made famous, crossed with an opened bottle of sparkling wine.
This sparkling wine is (obviously) made using the traditional method/methode champenoise of secondary fermentation in-bottle from base wines of all three classic 'Champagne grapes', picked (so far) only in 2015 (later production will blend in later vintages in classic NV fashion, to form a multi-year wine). Before that secondary fermentation, a very small proportion (1.25%) of the Chardonnay is aged in new oak barrels for 9 months to add texture/body and (some say) a soft, very minor vanilla element. The time en tirage (ie of that secondary fermentation on the lees) is a full three years, making it the same as the entry standard for vintage Champagne. This time adds considerable complexity to the wine, harnesses some of the wine's acidity and lends it the classic brioche/pastry flavours and aromas of the traditional method. A very low level of dosage (as below) is added to the resulting sparkling wine.
35% Chardonnay, 47% Pinot Noir, 18% Pinot Meunier 18%.
Dosage/residual sugar = 3.5g/litre (ie Extra Brut and only a fraction above Brut Nature levels).
This white English sparkling wine carries the biscuity aroma associated with lying on the lees (yeast), mellow caramel undertones from a little oak-barrel ageing, and a citrus aftertaste which lingers so well on the palate because of the remarkably low dosage.
ABV = 12.0%.