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Outstanding/95-point English Fizz - January 2020

The pre-amble

The January 2020 edition of Decanter (www.decanter.com) makes its usual, detailed, panel-based, blind-tasted analysis, this time of English sparkling wine.

This is the first such full panel tasting of "English Fizz" since August 2016. In a category that is now hotly contested and - at least in publicity terms - dominated by a number of well-known players, these results have been much-awaited and now make for very interesting reading.

The headline?

Perhaps a little unexpectedly, the sole Outstanding/95-point-scorer is one of England's (currently) lesser-known winemaking names (albeit not for much longer now!) and one of its most sensibly-priced.

More predictably, we are one of very few outlets for that wine and offer it at an excellent £27.50, along with a number of the better-scoring wines from the review.

Scroll down if you'd prefer to get straight to that wine. This is the pre-amble, after all.

For news of the other wines in Decanter this month, click this link.

 

English fizz in general

If there's a talking point in the UK wine trade (that isn't Brexit), it's English Fizz (NB: we don't much like that term, but, rather like "surf and turf", it's hard to avoid; there's also ESW = English Sparkling Wine). There's so much that could be written here, but, for brevity, here are our few key, condensed facts and thoughts:

  • The vast majority are made using the traditional method/methode champenoise. Unsurprisingly, entrants into a new market have gone for the premium end of the market (ie taking on Champagne) rather than the low end (ie taking on Prosecco), where the prestige and better margins are to be found. See also the pricing bullet below. There are, however, increasingly a few English tank/Charmat (ie Prosecco) method fizzes now starting to appear on the market, as the prestige/premium marketspace starts to become busy and competitive (like UK gin).
  • It mainly uses the classic trio of Champagne grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier) and in similar proportions to Champagne. Indeed, the use of Meunier is almost unique outside Champagne. Almost all New World trad method fizzes don't use it and there's precious little in Europe. We'd argue that this makes it as identical as you can get. (I struggle - despite experience - to tell (good) English fizz from Champagne of late, and I largely put that down to the Meunier).
  • Geography: it's in the south, and most of it on chalky downland. Which you'd expect, to mirror the climate, aspect and geology of Champagne. Indeed, there's not much of a large advantage for Champagne these days, save for a bit more sunshine, a little (but actually only a little) less rain and the geology for huge great tunnels/cellars everywhere to age one's capacious stocks of fizz in optimum condition (this last fact often gets overlooked in the discussion). There are sparkling vineyards in North Yorkshire, but they're definitely outliers.

(map from Decanter)

  • Regionality and terroir: there's not a lot of regional terroir going on, at least not in terms of how it manifests itself in/on wine character. That's to say: while one can tell Martinborough Pinot Noir from Otago Pinot Noir, you can't tell Northants Fizz from Kent Fizz. Much of that comes down to the masking effect of the secondary fermentation (see also below). We're some way from Premier and Grand Cru villages in Sussex (although it does have a PDO) just yet. 
  • It's grown fast. The area under vine - for sparkling wines - in the UK now is up to ~3,300 hectares (33 square kilometres) from ~900 ha in 1990. That said, it's still tiny compared with major winegrowing areas (Rioja's vines cover ~65,000 hectares, to say nothing of the rest of Spain...)
  • English Fizz is seriously good. Gone are the days of sniggering/guiffawing at the quality of English wines. Even the French have stopped doing that now. It's probably fair to say that UK still wines in general still have a long way to go, and it's principally the unfortunate ravages of climate change (see below) that will determine whether Essex is producing Burgundian Chardonnay or Barossa-y Shiraz by 2100. The best is now every bit as good as all the but the very highest tier of vintage Champagne (we've yet to see the emergence of true super-cuvées a la Dom Perignon, La Grande Dame, Winston Churchill etc).
  • Quite why sparkling is a UK strong point is easy to explain, really. The base wines for traditional method sparklings only just need to be wine, really; ripeness is less important than acidity and bite, since the traditional method's secondary, in-bottle fermentation is what imparts the main flavours and aromas (all that briochey, bready, yoghurty bit), especially those that are more heavily lees-aged. That said, one of the major advances in quality in the last few years has come about from a number of warm summers that have added more ripeness and fruit to the base wines, and added just a little more Champagne 'warmth', compared with the UK's former/more usual steely/acidic character.
  • It's still pretty pricey. We're not talking daft prices, but almost nobody is making cheap English Fizz. You can see why:
    • Everyone wants to avoid a Cava Crisis where producers compete hugely on price, bottles crash to a tenner in value and the product is hugely devalued in both value and prestige terms;
    • Land and capital costs: land has been bought up in costly parts of England, vineyard machinery has been procured, wineries have been built, stocks of ageing Champagnes have been accrued. These new producers, their shareholders (and, in some cases, private equity companies) are looking for returns on that investment. Answer: quite high bottle prices, especially when compared with a similar stamp of Champagne (where that investment was largely financially written down a century or two ago).
    • It's seen as prestige, aspirational product - and still a bit of a novelty, being British/English - and can be priced accordingly.
  • Overall, probably, you still get better value in Champagne - more with good Grower Champagne than with the grandes marques - but that gap is closing fast.
  • It's a good thing, it's a bad thing. Much of this revolution, frankly, stems from climate change. It's great to see English wine growing (in every sense), but it's set against a worrying backdrop, whether you see that as being Pinot Noir being ungrowable in Burgundy by 2050 or typhoons, wildfires and floods across the planet.

 

The Decanter review

53 English Fizzes were tasted/tested. 

These were specified as latest releases, white styles only, vintage or non-vintage and priced at £50 or under. That's a good block of the English Fizz market (it allows for Blancs de Blancs and Blancs de Noirs). Obviously, however, rosé styles miss the cut.

Only one was rated as Outstanding (95 points and above) - yes, yes, more in a moment - with another 26 ranked as Highly Recommended (90+).

Prices of those Highly Recommendeds vary from £27 to £45. The average is around £34.

Honours were pretty evenly shared between the NVs (12 of these achieved 90+ points) and vintage (15 of these) wines. On the one hand, you might well expect a greater skew towards the vintage wines (generally given a bit more time and love). I'd say the NV strength shows the quality impact that blending across vintages lends to a wine, especially where good vintages cannot easily be relied upon.

Mirroring the terroir bullet above, there was no clear regional trend. 11 of the Highly recommendeds were from one Sussex or other, five were from Hampshire. But those proportions also closely reflect the regional split of entries!

Decanter make a point that they felt that wines that included some oak ageing of the base/reserve wines did boost scores. As you'll see below, however, with regard the poll-topper, we're respectfully taking that with a pinch of salt.

 

The review-topper

All of which leads us here: to that one wine that rared as Outstanding. We figured it would probably be one of the bigger names - a Nyetimber, a Chapel Down, a Gusbourne. But Decanter panels have a tendency to uncover little-known, harder-to-find wines as their toppers (eg the Pierre Bertrand and the Cerro Anon).  It's the same story here.

That wine is Fairmile Vineyard's Classic Cuvée NV. It's from Henley-on-Thames, which, whilst in the slightly lumpy, leafy bits of the Home Counties, is not one of the noted hotspots for English Fizz (ie Hants, the Sussexes and Kent). There's a heap more detail on Fairmile and its owners, Jan & Anthea - a couple we've been lucky to talk to extensively in recent weeks - on our product page (or click any of the images below).

Theirs is a small, boutique vineyard of just 3 hectares, and they are a recent addition to the UK sparkling scene. Their vineyard was acquired in 2011, planted in 2013 and first harvested in 2015.

It is that 2015 vintage that solely makes up the review-topper. That is: it's badged as an NV, but is actually single-vintage. Fairmile's view is to develop a well-recognised NV, and this is their first release! They may just have been a little fortunate in their timing, as 2015 was the first of the excellent summers for English Fizz and is a highly-regarded vintage. Fortune aside, they clearly made the best of it to produce such a very fine sparkling wine. Going forwards, their reserve wine 'reservoir' is now adding 2016, 2017 etc to the assemblage, yielding greater complexity and year-on-year consistency, but, for now, what's been released (and what was tasted by Decanter and is supplied by us) is effectively that 2015 vintage.

You might well expect a boutique price. It isn't. From us, it's £27.50: the NV Champagne price zone for a wine that is more than the equal of most NV Champagnes. (By way of comparison, the two Outstandings from 2016 were both over £35).

As to the wine itself:

- it features the classic Champagne grape trio: 35% Chardonnay, 47% Pinot Noir, 18% Pinot Meunier 18%. That's pretty Pinot-rich, which has definitely added excellent body and roundness to the wine.

- it's been aged for three full years on its lees/en tirage. And it shows. There's marked biscuity/yoghurty/briochey aromas and flavours here from a lees ageing that is equivalent to many vintage Champagnes.

- it has very low sugar/dosage addition - just 3.5g/litre. You might expect that to leave the wine feeling rather acidic and tart, but the ripeness and roundness here means that the sugar/acid/ripeness balance here is absolutely spot on.

- it has nominally seen some oak treatment. Decanter make quite a deal of this, both in their tasting note and in their description of the winemaking, but, honestly, I'm sceptical (of that claim, not the wine). Having discussed this at length with Fairmile, just 1.25% of the Chardonnay fraction is aged for nine months in new oak. Neither Pinot is oak aged/treated at all. Now, clearly, Fairmile do that for a reason, and I can see it adding, at the very margin, just a little more depth. But let's think about that: that's 1.25% of 35% of the wine = 0.4% of the wine. That is, 3 ml (less than a teaspoon) of your bottle is oaked Chardonnay, dissolved and dispersed in 747 ml of other base wine(s). That's then secondar(il)y fermented, lees-aged for 3 years and sweetened a touch. And you're really telling me through and after all of that, Decanter, that "there are hints of vanilla"? Certainly, lovely a fizz as this is, none of us at Exel found that vanilla; if it is there, it can't be much driven by the oak! It may be heresy to 'argue' with Decanter, we know (especially when we are using their review to help us sell the wine) but we do feel that their view of the oak is overstated. Certainly, the curious statement in their review, "the Classic Cuvée sees nine months of oak ageing before release" needs to be seen against those proportions above.

 

What Decanter said

Having poured a little (dilute and oak-aged) scorn on Decanter there, here's their review in full.

 As you see there, from the three judges on the Decanter panel, we respectively have:

"In the mouth it is rounded and rich with savoury flavours and a long, creamy finish".

"The palate is rich and generous, yet has a sense of being restrained. Really nice!".

"There’s plenty of good juicy fruit here on the nose and mouth. The finish is long-lasting. A superb example".

For an English Fizz, this is praise indeed.

What's more, on this, we totally agree here at Exel.

As ever, we seldom miss out on tasting a Decanter Topper, and we very seldom endorse anything we've not tested (photos below).

We may not have found that vanilla, but the fullness, roundedness, long finish, richness and fruitiness are all exactly as Decanter say. It can be hard to find such fullness in vintage Champagne, let alone in NV English Fizz. On fruit, we mostly picked up peaches and poached pears - again, a statement of that richness. 

With some trial and error, we found that this was a glass best served really quite cold - the warmth of the cuvée comes out rather better; this is something we find quite often.

If you were to go looking for weaknesses - we rather feel we have to - it would lie in complexity. It has layers, mind, and has the complexity of good NV Champagne. We'd just warn of expecting too much - you're not into Krug here.

Finally

  • Both wines are a few days (only) from being in stock with us more permanently. If speed is imprtant to you, orders placed by lunchtime on Thursday 5th December will be with customers on Monday 9th December (unless delayed by other items in a cistomer order). Thereafter, we're next-day-delivery on these.
  • We do, of course, offer many of the wines from the review. You'll find them at the foot of this page, and their reviews from the magazine appear on their product pages.
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Fairmile Vineyard Classic Cuvee NV (1x75cl)

Awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition panel tasting of English Sparkling Wine ("English Fizz") (see blue link below).

 

Fairmile Vineyard Classic Cuvee NV - January 2020 Decanter review

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%.

£27.50

Nyetimber Classic Cuvee (1x 75cl)

Awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition panel tasting of English Sparkling Wine ("English Fizz") (see blue link below).

Nyetimber Classic Cuvee - January 2020 Decanter review

Awarded 95 points and Gold status at the 2019 IWC (International Wine Challenge) in May 2019 (see blue link below for review and their tasting note).

Nyetimber Classic Cuvee NV - IWC 2019 award and review

Winemaker, Cherie Spriggs, is central to every decision that gets made at Nyetimber. She assesses each and every handpicked vineyard individually. This means choosing the optimal time to harvest the grapes, supervising their gentle pressing and their eventual vinification in stainless steel tanks. This level of knowledge allows her to make informed decisions about blending wines the following spring.

Southern England is perfect for the production of sparkling wine. The chalk seam that supplies Champagne grapes with the perfect green sand and chalky soil to flourish is the very same that runs under the lee of the South Downs. This is where, sheltered from the coastal winds, Nyetimber's vines are planted across eight separate sites. The climate here allows for the slow ripening of their grapes, allowing them to achieve the optimum level of acidity for the wine, as well as the complexity and finesse that they strive for. At Nyetimber they only use grapes from their own vineyards. Prior to harvest, the grapes are tasted to ensure the best flavour development before picking. And if they aren’t up to standard? They simply won’t use them.

All Nyetimber's wines are made according to the traditional méthode champenoise, ageing them for extended periods of time and giving the bottles sufficient post-disgorgement time before release.

See the blue link below for the excellent fiche technique/technical note (including grape variety proportions in the blend, which do vary in this wine as its reserve wines pass from vintage to vintage) from the winemakers themselves.

Nyetimber Classic Cuvee NV - fiche technique

Residual sugar = 10g/litre (ie Brut).

Nyetimer Classic Cuvée is a lovely pale gold colour with gentle and fine bubbles.  The aromas are toasty, spicy and complex, showing wonderful development after spending more than three years on its lees in the cellar. The palate supports the complex aromas and is enriched with the flavours of honey, almond, pastry and baked apples.  This sparkling wine is very elegant with a great combination of intensity, delicacy and length.

ABV = 12.0%.

£31.25

Wiston Estate Goring Blanc de Blancs Family Release NV (1x75cl)

Awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition panel tasting of English Sparkling Wine ("English Fizz") (see blue link below).

Wiston Estate Goring Blanc De Blancs Family Release NV - January 2020 Decanter review

Awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their September 2019 edition panel tasting of global Blanc de Blancs sparklings (see blue link below).

Wiston Estate Goring Blanc De Blancs Family Release NV - September 2019 Decanter review

Dermot Sugrue is not exactly a new name in the English wine industry, but he is certainly a winemaker at the top of his game. Born in Ireland in 1974, he studied Viticulture and Oenology at Plumpton Agricultural College before completing two seasons working at Château l'Eglise-Clinet and Château Leoville-Barton. In 2003, he joined Nyetimber and was appointed winemaker in 2004. From Nyetimber he moved to the beautiful, family-run Wiston Estate in 2006, nestled in the heart of England’s rolling South Downs in West Sussex, to work with the Goring Family who has owned the estate since 1743. The Goring Brut, Rosé and Blanc de Blancs are made exclusively for us by Dermot Sugrue and take their name from the Goring family.

The fruit comes from two vineyards situated on the South Downs in West Sussex, which are above the 50th parallel and are influenced by a cool, coastal climate. The cool winters, moderate rainfall and temperate summers, combined with cooling sea breezes encourage the grapes to ripen slowly, retaining the natural acidity crucial for producing freshness in high quality sparkling wine. The vines are grown on a chalk escarpment, which is not dissimilar to the soils found in the vineyards of the Côtes de Blancs in Champagne. These chalky soils provide excellent drainage for the vines, as well as imparting great elegance and finesse to the wines. The vines are planted at a density of 4,000 vines per hectare and are trained according to the Vertical Shoot Positioning method, with Guyot pruning. The vines are tended by hand, with careful canopy management ensuring maximum sunlight exposure in this capricious climate. The Wiston vineyard is run according to a strict philosophy of sustainability. Manually harvested at optimum maturity.

The grapes were pressed in whole bunches using a traditional, gentle Coquard basket press in order to preserve the delicate fruit flavours and aromas in the juice. Vinified using the traditional method, the juice was fermented entirely in stainless steel tanks with selected yeasts. Each component of the final assemblage wine went through malolactic fermentation and was allowed to rest on its lees for nine months imparting structure and complexity. After blending, cold stabilisation and bottling, the wine underwent a slow secondary fermentation. It was then kept on its side, under crown cap at cool temperatures of 9 to 11°C for almost three years on its fine lees, while it matured and took on flavour and structure through the process of autolysis. To preserve the natural poise and balance a dosage of 9g/l was added (ie Brut).

Chardonnay 100%.

An elegant and complex expression of the exceptional chalky terroir from which it hails, it has delicious notes of grapefruit, lemon zest, orange blossom and crushed oyster shells complemented by a racy acidity. 

ABV = 12.0%.

£30.75

Gusbourne Brut Reserve 2015 (1x75cl)

Awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition panel tasting of English Sparkling Wine ("English Fizz") (see blue link below).

Gusbourne Brut Reserve 2015 - January 2020 Decanter review

For a full description of this wine, we would direct you to the data sheet/fiche technique from Gusbourne themselves (click blue link below)

Gusbourne Brut Reserve 2015 - fiche technique

See also the release notes from the producer here.

53% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, 7% Pinot Meunier.

Dosage = 8g/litre.

Bright gold in colour, this blend highlights red fruit aromas of cherry and strawberry, which then develop into attractive fresh pastry notes with a touch of cinnamon and spice. With a bright streak of citrus fruit, the palate is clean and fresh whilst giving tones of soft stone fruit and a long, refreshing finish. It is the flexible partner for contemporary and classic English food pairings; from seared scallops and smoked eels to fish & chips (seriously: try it!)

ABV = 12.0%.

£35.20

Hattingley Valley Classic Reserve NV (1x75cl)

Awarded 87 points and Recommended status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition panel tasting of English Sparkling Wine ("English Fizz") (see blue link below).

Hattingley Valley Classic Reserve NV - January 2020 Decanter review

Hattingley Valley is a family owned business located in Hampshire specialising in premium English sparkling wines. Simon Robinson established Hattingley Valley in 2008. Following in-depth feasibility studies, the first 28-acre, south-facing site was planted in May of that year with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Alongside Emma Rice, he planned the modern, eco-friendly winery in Wield that was completed in 2010. It uses the latest technology and equipment from continental Europe, has sophisticated waste disposal facilities and was the first UK winery to adopt solar power.

The estate currently manages over 24 hectares (60 acres) of vines across two, well-situated sites under the watchful eyes of its vineyard managers. The vines are nurtured throughout the growing year with an environmentally-sensitive approach to viticulture ensuring optimum ripeness, yield and quality of fruit.

At Hattingley Valley, the traditional method (method champenoise) is used for winemaking. A key element of the house style is the subtle use of oak barrels to ferment a small proportion of the wines each year, as well as ageing on lees in stainless steel tanks. This helps to soften the wines before they go into bottles for the second fermentation. 

The butterfly you see across Hattingley’s branding is the Silver-washed Fritillary, a rare butterfly often found in the chalk-based vineyard. The presence of this special butterfly shows that the vineyard is a thriving environment with a rich biodiversity.

Since launching its first release in August 2013, Hattingley Valley has been recognised in competitions across the globe and developed into one of the most respected producers of English sparkling wines in the country. Hattingley was awarded the ‘World Champion’ trophy for its 2011 Blanc de Blancs in the Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships 2017.

Chardonnay 50%, Pinot Noir 30%, Pinot Meunier 19%, Pinot Gris 1%.

Dosage = 7g/litre (ie at the low end of Brut).

Here's Hattingley Valley's own data sheet/fiche technique on this wine.

Hattingley Valley Classic Reserve NV - fiche technique

Pale gold in colour with an abundance of fine bubbles, the Hattingley Valley Classic Reserve has vibrant baked apple, creamy nougat and brioche notes on the nose, supported by a hint of toast and fresh red fruit representative of the 2014 vintage. With notes of soft lemon sherbet on the palate, the wine has a beautiful weight from partial oak fermentation of the base wine. Refreshing and perfectly balanced, this wine has a delightful long finish.

ABV = 12.0%.

£28.70

Balfour - Hush Heath Estate, Leslie's Reserve NV

Awarded 87 points and Recommended status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition panel tasting of English Sparkling Wine ("English Fizz") (see blue link below).

Balfour-Hush Heath Estate, Leslie's Reserve NV - January 2020 Decanter review

Balfour - Hush Heath Estate, situated in Kent, dates back to 1503. At the heart of the property is a Tudor manor surrounded by 162 hectares of perfectly manicured oak forests, vineyards, and apple orchards. Forward-thinking Richard Balfour-Lynn first planted vineyards on the property in 2002, with the aim of making England's finest sparkling rosé. Today, the 25 hectares of vineyards and eight hectares of apple trees are meticulously and sustainably managed by a family of viticulturists. The wines and cider, some named after Richard’s family, are made from estate grown fruit by winemakers Owen Elias and Victoria Ash. Owen is a four-time UK Vineyards Association 'Winemaker of the Year' winner and has nearly 20 years of experience making English wines. In the summer of 2018, Balfour - Hush Heath Estate opened their new state-of-the-art winery and cellar door tasting room.

The flagship Brut Rosé is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier, which spends over three years on its lees. The result is a crisp rosé with balanced red berry fruit, richness from the lees ageing and elegance from the restrained dosage. The non-vintage 'Leslie's Reserve' offers great value for an English sparkling wine. It is made from the same three grape varieties as Brut Rosé and is aged on its lees for 15 months. It is fruity and appealing, with lovely roundness on the palate and a refreshing acidity on the finish. The Blanc de Blancs is only produced in very small quantities and only in the finest vintages. The wine spends 30 months on its lees which adds depth and complexity. It is a clean vibrant style with crisp acidity and a wonderful lightness.

The Estate’s still wines, known as the ‘Family Collection’, are a real discovery. ‘Skye's English White’, a blend based on 55% Chardonnay, has a lively citrus fruit character on the palate and racy acidity that is balanced by good depth on the mid-palate. The beautifully pale ‘Nanette's English Rose’ is a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Meunier, which gives it a citrus edge. ‘Luke’s Pinot Noir’ is an elegant red, with ripe and soft tannins, beautifully balanced acidity and juicy red fruit and spice notes. ‘Liberty’s Bacchus’ is a new addition to the list, made from grapes from the Foxwood vineyard, the highest point on the estate. A proportion of the wine underwent fermentation in barrel with wild yeasts, resulting in a lovely toasty complexity balanced by zesty acidity. The Springfield Chardonnay is the first still Chardonnay that Balfour has made since 2015. Made exclusively from fruit from the marvellous 2018 vintage, with careful use of new French and American oak, this wine showcases the huge potential of English still wines. With a bright straw complexion and a fresh palate of grapefruit and green apple, this wine is drinking beautifully now but also has the capacity to age elegantly.

All vineyards are located on the 400 acre estate in the heart of Kent. Wealden clay soils overlay Tunbridge Wells sand. Vines are trellised using the double guyot method with vertical shot positioning. Planting density is 3300 vines per hectare and the whole estate is managed sustainably.

The grapes for this non-vintage (NV) wine are usually harvested in October.

The grapes were whole bunch pressed and then fermented at 16°C in stainless steel. Secondary fermentation took place in bottle and the wine aged on its lees for 15 months. The grapes are all grown, fermented and bottled on the Estate.

Residual sugar = 19g/l (ie this is just a Sec).

55% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, 5% Pinot Meunier.

A golden colour with pink highlights, Leslie's Reserve is a fresh and vibrant style with an expressive and fruity character of citrus, green apple and a creamy mousse. It has a lovely roundness on the palate, refreshing acidity on the finish and complexity derived from the lees ageing.

ABV = 12.0%.

£27.75

Sugrue Pierre The Trouble with Dreams Cuvée Brut 2014 (1x 75cl)

Awarded 87 points and Recommended status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition panel tasting of English Sparkling Wine ("English Fizz") (see blue link below).

Sugrue Pierre The Trouble With Dreams Cuvée Brut 2014 - January 2020 Decanter review

Awarded 95 points and Gold status at the 2019 IWC (International Wine Challenge) in May 2019 (see blue link below for review and their tasting note).

Sugrue Pierre The Trouble With Dreams Cuvée Brut 2014 - IWC 2019 award and review

The 2013 vintage was awarded 97 points and rare Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their August 2017 edition review of English Sparkliing (see blue link below).

Sugrue Pierre Trouble With Dreams 2013 - August 2017 Decanter review

Sugrue Pierre is the personal project of celebrated English sparkling winemaker, Dermot Sugrue. Sugrue has been the winemaker behind many of England's best sparkling wines over the last 10 years. Previously the winemaker at Nyetimber, he left in 2006 to establish the Wiston Estate Winery. The same year he also planted a one-hectare vineyard in Storrington Priory which has been in full production since 2009, producing the highly-acclaimed and multi-award-winning sparkling wine, ‘The Trouble with Dreams’. In 2017, this, the truly exceptional and very limited ‘The Trouble with Dreams’ 2013, took the top spot in the Independent English Wine Awards.

A portion of the fruit for this vintage was sourced from the Storrington Priory Vineyard. The majority of grapes came from the exceptional Mount Harry Vineyard near Lewes, in East Sussex. Both of the vineyards are located in Sussex, sitting above the 50th parallel and are influenced by a cool coastal climate. The vineyards have east and south-easterly aspects respectively, encouraging the maximum exposure to the sun, assisting ripening in this capricious climate. The soils are dominated by South Downs chalk which provides superior drainage for the vines, as well as imparting great elegance and finesse to the wines.

This is a blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir. The grapes were harvested at optimal ripeness and pressed in a traditional Coquard basket press. 50% of the juice was fermented in a combination of old oak barriques and 500-litre puncheons, while the remaining 50% was fermented in stainless steel tanks, where malolactic fermentation was encouraged, softening the resulting wine. This sparkling wine was made using the traditional method, with the secondary fermentation taking place in the bottle. 

Dosage = 6g/litre (ie the low end of Brut).

This boasts great purity and elegance, with lemon and apple aromas leading to a palate of delicate stone fruit and refreshingly crisp acidity. This is long, complex and absolutely delicious. Served chilled, this is a stunning apéritif. It also accompanies seafood magnificently. The structure and finesse of this wine give it the versatility to match with a variety of dishes.

ABV = 12.0%.

£38.45
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