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, 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%.
They say that a good wine needs time to reveal its qualities, but it also needs dedication and constant commitment. Few products can embody so much expertise and thousands of years of history as those made by Botter. It has passed through the careful hands of three generations for whom wine was a passion as well as a trade. They have responded to the constantly evolving market over time, in a process of ongoing expansion.
The grapes for this Prosecco are picked in the second half of September.
The soft pressed must is stored in steel tanks for static cold decanting. The fermentation with selected yeasts is carried out at a controlled temperature of 18 °C and takes 8-10 days. After a storage period, the winemaker ensures the expected level of quality is achieved for this Prosecco Spumante cuvée. The wine is then filtered and stored in steel tanks with the addition of sucrose and selected yeasts for the second fermentation (Martinotti-Charmat method) at a controlled temperature of 14-15 °C. Once the wine has reached the required pressure levels, alcohol and sugar content, the wine is refrigerated and cold stabilized. It is filtered before bottling.
The Botter Prosecco Spumante has a crisp and delicate perlage. There is a pale light yellow colour, alongside a delicate and complex bouquet with fruity notes that are reminiscenrt of peach, green apple with second notes of acacia and wisteria. It is fresh and light on the palate, with balanced acidity and body; it proves itself to be harmonic with a long persistent aftertaste.
Ideal as an aperitif, it is a perfect combination to hors-d’oeuvres and delicate first courses. Also wonderful with sushi, fish and shellfish.
ABV = 11.0%.
Deep ruby red in colour with an aromatic nose, strongly reminiscent of fresh strawberries. The palate is richly soft, generously fruity and delightfully refreshing, offering ripe, concentrated red berry fruits such as cranberries, raspberries and strawberries, a fine, persistent mousse and a soft finish. Low acidity and very little tannin combine to create a deliciously fruit driven, thirst quenching wine.
ABV = 11.0%.
The Perelada estate, an impressive fortress and palace that was previously owned by the Counts of Pereleda and a Carmelite monastery, was purchased in 1923 by Miguel Mateu, an active political and cultural ambassador of the time. Don Miguel revitalized the wine producing tradition of the estate records showed that there where vineyards planted in the Medieval period. He turned the estate into his own private cultural centre, building up the collections which would become the Castle museum which is today open to the public.
A blend of the three traditional Cava making grapes: Parellada (35%), Xarel·lo (45%), Macabeo (30%).
After primary fermentation, the wine is aged in bottle on the lees for 15 months before disgorging. Brilliant pale yellow colour with a generous stream of fine bubbles. The nose is clean and fruity with light yeasty notes from ageing. It is pleasantly bone dry, with a round and refreshing mouthfeel and nice flavour complexity.
See the link below for full details of the wine, in Parelada's own data sheet.
This is a fine Cava, and that offers markedly better quality than its price might indicate.
ABV = 11.5%.
Awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their August 2018 edition expert review of French Cremant(s) (see blue link below).
The Dopff family has been winegrowers since 1574 and still manage the 70 hectare estate near the charming medieval town of Riquewihr. The vineyards are more than 300 metres above sea level, nestled in the foothills of the lower Vosges. As a family of pioneers, they were responsible for the use of the stemmed wine bottles, which today distinguish Alsace wines from other regions. In 1900, tenth generation Julien Dopff was so impressed by the Champagne tastings held in Paris' World Exhibition, he learnt the art of winemaking in Champagne for two years before returning to Alsace. After WW II Julien Dopff strongly believed that a Crémant made from local grape varieties and reflecting the terroir of Alsace should be produced and protected. In 1976, together with five other producers, he finally obtained official recognition for Crémant d'Alsace as an AOC.
Made from 50% Auxerrois, which is a sibling grape variety of Chardonnay, mainly grown in Alsace. It is an earlier ripener, added to the blend for its low acidity and body. The grapes are mainly sourced from vineyards in the Colmar area. Grown in a light sandy soil, with good drainage, the vines are trained according to the Guyot method. Green harvesting takes place along with meticulous canopy management to ensure good light penetration and air flow. Rest of blend not specified by Dopff.
The grapes are gently crushed and pressing is limited to 100 litres of must per 150kg of grapes. The first fermentation is carried out in stainless steel and glass tanks, while the second fermentation takes place in the bottle, using the traditional Champagne method. The wine is aged for 18 months in bottle on its lees with automatic riddlings using gyropallets. This Crémant D'Alsace is mostly based on a single vintage, currently being 2012 crop.
Dry and elegant Crémant, showing hints of quince and white flowers, fine bubbles with good length and weight. Ideal as an apéritif or excellent white fish, sushi, oysters or fresh fruit.
This wine is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
ABV = 12.0%.
Gobillard is located in the heart of Champagne just 5km from Epernay. The village of Hautvillers dominates the vineyard with its abbey, where the infamous Dom Pérignon is reported to have created the first champagne bubbles. Passion, dynamism and competence define this family business, from the work in the vineyard to marketing, each step is carried out with respect for the traditions of Champagne.
The grapes are pressed very gently and varieties are vinified separately off the skins to produce a low alcohol dry white wine which is racked and allowed to mature in tank until the spring. The lots are then blended together, using some reserve wines from earlier fine vintages. The resulting wine is then bottled with special "flocculent" yeasts and sugars and is refermented under a crown cap. There follows a period of ageing, when the yeasts flavour the wine and give it characteristic brioche aromas. Gobillard then opens the bottles ("dégorgement"), removing the yeast in the process, adds a dosage of grape sugars, inserts the characteristic mushroom cork, and ships the wine.
Much of the trick in buying Champagne lies in finding a good one without being taken for a ride pricewise, often by the draw of the big names. This Baron de Marck has a beautiful and pure fruit character as well as a hint of brioche, giving it a soft rounded flavour. This is a Champagne which is perfect as an aperitif or with canapés and nibbles or with lighter dishes. Great Champagne, great price.
ABV = 12.5%.
** NOW IN STOCK! **
** APART FROM A FEW STRAY BOTTLES, THIS WINE IS NOW ONLY AVAILABLE FROM EXEL WINES IN THE UK, IT HAVING BEEN DISCONTINUED IN EARLY 2019 BY THE UK IMPORTER. HOWEVER, WE ARE STILL ABLE TO TAKE IT FROM THEM VIA AN AGREEMENT WITH GRAHAM BECK. **
NB: This wine has (Dec 19) been renamed the Bliss Nectar by Graham Beck. It is quite the same wine as it always was (save for a tiny % change in the Chardonnay/Pinot Noir mix).
The foundations for the success of the Graham Beck brand were laid in 1983 when the late Graham Beck purchased Madeba, a farm located outside the Western Cape town of Robertson. It was his ardent ambition to establish a world-class winery in this area that saw the erection of a state-of-the-art cellar. The cornerstones of the Beck family ethos were entrenched from the very start – contributing to the passion and dedication that continues to drive the entire team today. From grape to glass the entire process of producing a Graham Beck Méthode Cap Classique (MCC) relies on meticulous attention to detail, dedication to authenticity, precision timing and plenty of patience. At Graham Beck the team is passionate about the pursuit of the perfect bubble – a golden thread of excellence runs throughout the entire process and portfolio.
Chardonnay 55%, Pinot Noir 45%.
To see the winemaker's excellent notes - including tasting notes -on this sparkling wine, please click on the blue link below.
To be very clear, as the term demi sec implies, this is emphatically not a dry sparkling wine. It has a residual sugar level of ~37 grams/litre, making it technically 'medium-sweet'.
ABV = 11.5%.
This winery changed hands in May 2016, with one family company, Brown Brothers, taking it off the hands of another, its founder, Phil Sexton. So associated is Innocent Bystander with the Yarra Valley that the new owners made the intelligent decision to build a new winery in Healesville, just across the parking lot from Giant Steps. They quickly signed contracts with all the grape growers that Phil used for Innocent Bystander, so that the style of the wines remains unchanged. This regional and varietal style, reflecting the soil, climate and topography of the cool climate in the Yarra Valley is the base upon which the reputation of Innocent Bystander has been built.
The fruit for the Moscato was sourced from a number of vineyard sites across the Swan Hill region of North West Victoria. Soils here are predominantly calcareous sandy loam. The wine is a blend of three different types of the Muscat grape: Muscat of Alexandria, Black Muscat and Red Frontignac (one of the many clones of Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains).
The 2018 season started off relatively dry with below average rainfall coming into budburst. October was quite cool, and the vines grew quite slowly. From November, there was a distinct change in the weather with an increase in heat and subsequent rapid growth. Great weather with warm and sunny days led to a fast and uniform flowering from mid-November. High fruit set and larger berries led to very high bunch weights.
Harvested in the cool of the night, the fruit was chilled and crushed with six hours skin contact to extract a vibrant hint of pink from the Black Muscat grapes. The juice then underwent a cool fermentation in pressurised stainless steel vats to retain the freshness and to trap the natural effervescence. Fermentation was stopped at 5.5% alcohol by chilling the wine before it was then bottled under pressure.
This wine is a blend of 71% Muscat of Alexandria, 26% Black Muscat, 3% Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains.
Vivid pink in colour, this highly aromatic wine has notes of blackcurrant, Turkish delight, mandarin peel and a hint of candy floss. The palate is rich and fruity with balanced residual sugar, a cleansing natural acidity and a spritzy finish.
ABV = 5.5%.
Without the efforts of men like Ken Forrester, South African Chenin Blanc might be scarcely more than a footnote to the country’s recent winemaking history – a workhorse (see below) grape responsible for vast amounts of forgettably bland white wine. But this Zambia-born former restaurateur saw the potential of this grape, placing it firmly at the centre of his resurrection of the historic Scholtzenhof farm on the slopes of Stellenbosch’s Helderberg mountain in the early 1990s. More than twenty years on, Ken is known as ‘Mr Chenin’.
Sparklehorse is made using the Cap Classique method (MCC appears on labels, Méthode Cap Classique), which is the South African term for the traditional method/méthode traditionelle of in-bottle second fermentation used to create many of the world's classic sparkling wines (including Champagne).
The grapes for Sparklehorse - 100% Chenin Blanc - come from a carefully selected cool vineyard site which was first planted in 1975. The vineyard faces south-south-west and has sandy soil. These factors all allow the grapes to mature whilst continuing to maintain a high level of refreshing acidity which gives the wine its character.
This wine is aged for 14 months on its yeast lees to allow it to develop a creaminess and delicate mousse while still maintaining bright, fresh apple, pear and quince aromas. Intense green apples dominate the nose and first sip is like biting into a crisp, bright, green cooking apple. Fresh mousse and soft finish make it a delicious wine. Served as an aperitif or with food or simply with friends. As they say at the Forrester vineyards, "ideal with seafood, salmon, sushi, salads and sunsets.”
"And why Sparklehorse?", we asked.
Ken replied, “I was always captivated by the intricacies of sparkling wine. One specific vineyard on the property offered the right conditions for full-flavoured, early harvest wines and so with this fruit I decided to embark on a special project. Since deriving from the workhorse variety, I wanted to have some fun and cheer the whole package up and the name "sparklehorse" had instant appeal, with the idea of a colourful fairground pony, a sparkling carousel horse - every child’s first pony! And so the concept was presented- a dreamy, colourful, sparkling horse, straight off a carousel. The label captures the spirit and fun of the fair, the horse is truly the embodiment of fun and all that sparkling wine represents!"
ABV = 12.5%.
The Cuvée Rosé Laurent-Perrier bottle, with its generous, curvaceous lines, is unique – an invitation to self-indulgence.
When Bernard de Nonancourt launched Cuvée Rosé Laurent-Perrier in 1968, he decided to present his creation in a uniquely distinctive bottle to magnify this very special cuvée. He found his inspiration in the rather stubby bottles manufactured in the time of King Henri IV, adding the seal-like monogrammed ‘LP’ shield. The packaging, which seemed very modern at the time, has gradually evolved since 1968.
The grapes for Laurent Perrier Rose come from 10 different crus located mainly in the South and North areas of the Montagne de Reims – including the famous Côte de Bouzy – notably from the finest crus of Ambonnay, Bouzy, Louvois and Tours-sur-Marne.
The grapes from carefully selected plots are sorted and destemmed before vatting. The maceration – lasting from 48h to 72h depending on the harvest – helps the extraction of the colour and the development of the full aromatic richness of the Pinot Noir. It is aged for a minimum of 5 years.
Elegant, with colour changing naturally from a pretty raspberry hue to salmon-pink. A precise nose of extraordinary freshness and a wide range of red fruits: raspberry, redcurrant, strawberry, black cherry. A fresh and sharp attack for this supple and rounded wine. On the palate, it offers the sensation of plunging into a basket of freshly picked red berries.
Its aromatic depth makes it ideal for pairing with marinated raw fish, grilled prawns, exotic dishes, Parma ham and red fruit desserts. Those who are more daring will try it with Asian or Indian cuisine.
ABV = 12.0%.
This wine comes from the purest grape juice and it alone allows Laurent-Perrier to craft ‘La Cuvée’, a champagne of great finesse and a beautiful freshness obtained after a long ageing process in their cellars. Laurent-Perrier’s style and personality are defined by its very high proportion of Chardonnay. Purity, freshness and elegance – essential characteristics, expressed in this champagne – are a good introduction to the spirit of the House.
In opting to blend its Brut champagne with a majority of Chardonnay, the rarest grape variety in the Champagne region, Laurent-Perrier was expressing its difference and asserting the signature ‘House’ style of freshness, lightness, and elegance. This has taken 15 years of extensive work on supply quality, steady progress regarding wine making and increased mastery of the art of blending.
This champagne is made using a majority of Chardonnay, over 50%, Pinot Noir, over 30% and is rounded off with Meunier, between 10 and 20%. Some of the wine that is used to make La Cuvée is reserve wine which ensures a perfect consistency in style. This blend of Laurent-Perrier La Cuvée is made from more than 100 crus selected by Laurent-Perrier. La Cuvée benefits from ageing in the cellar. Its balance and freshness are enhanced by a light dosage.
This champagne is pale gold in colour. Fine bubbles feed a persistent mousse. A delicate nose with hints of fresh citrus and white flowers. Its complexity is expressed in successive notes like vine peach and white fruits notes. There is a perfect balance between freshness and delicacy with fruity flavours present on the finish.
This fresh and pure champagne is perfect as an apéritif. Its citrus and white fruits notes and its remarkable balance supported by a subtle effervescence, make it an ideal accompaniment to poultry and the finest fish.
Golden yellow lemon colour. Fine, complex and expressive in the nose. At first, features of the bottle-ageing and a background aroma of sea water, eucalyptus and white fruits with a deep memory of Albariño. Background of toasted bread and almond husks. Full, tasty, creamy and fresh in the mouth. The hues reminding us of the grape variety reappear with a pleasant fresh finish in the mouth.
ABV = 12.0%.
Peter Lehmann, with 33 vintages already under his belt, started his own winery in 1979, partly as a means of helping with the glut of grapes then afflicting the Barossa. "I'll take your grapes and turn them into wine," he told the desperate growers, many of them conservative farmers of Silesian descent who regarded their old vines as part of their patrimony. "But I'll only be able to pay you when I sell the wine." They gratefully accepted. Without this deal, it is widely thought that the Barossa would have lost a huge chunk of its old vines. The 'Masters' wines are made from the parcels regarded by the winemakers as the best Semillon, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz of the vintage.
Peter Lehmann Wines works with over 140 growers across the length and breadth of the Barossa Valley region, with access to over 750 individual vineyard sites. The Black Queen is made from Shiraz grown on old, low-yielding vines in premium vineyards in the Moppa and Light Pass districts.
Often referred to as the jewel in their/his crown, Lehmann's lack Queen Sparkling Shiraz is a unique and indulgent wine using grapes sourced from premium vineyards in the Barossa region, used to craft this exceptional wine.
See blue link below for the excellent fiche technique/technical note from Peter Lehmann.
Residual sugar = 30g/litre (ie medium-dry, technically)
Bright red with a dense black core, the aroma is abundant with Christmas cake and mulberries. The palate is quintessential for what Black Queen Sparkling Shiraz is known for - a gentle mousse, naturally low in tannins, soft and abundant in rich blue fruits. Best enjoyed now, however, will comfortably develop further in the cellar for a further 5-10 years.
ABV = 14.0%.
** IT'S BACK AND IN STOCK!! **
Awarded 98 points and ultra-rare Exceptional status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their July 2017 edition review of Grower Champagne (see blue links below).
This is quite some Champagne and remarkable for the price. The varietal mix is equal thirds of the classic trio of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Grapes are grown only on vineyards of Premier Cru villages (you'd easily clear £30 a bottle for this privilege normally) on the Coteaux de Cumières and Hautvillers in the Marne Valley, yielding great intensity and concentration.
Based on reserve wines from 2013 (70%) and 2011 & 2012 (30%). Spends over 4 years sur lie/on its lees before disgorgement.
At 7g/l of dosage/residual sugar, this is at the drier end of Brut, but the fruit ripeness adds an exciting extra sensation of sweetness. Finally, Pierre Bertrand are rightly proud of their mousse onctueuse – smooth mousse – and we concur: it makes for a truly delicious Champagne experience.
One expects exhilarating acidity and and citrus zing in almost any Champagne - this does these in spades - but what makes it really stand out are both the ripeness of fruit flavours and the delicate florality of the nose. Pierre Bertrand see that fruitiness as “damson and pear” while we at Exel thought more “peach and nectarine”; either way, this is one seriously fruity mouthful. Florally, the makers go with “hawthorn flower” and we are not botanically inclined to disagree.
ABV = 12.5%.
BRONZE MEDAL, International Wine Challenge 2014
"My current number-one fizz for under £10 a bottle (if bought by the case). A mouthwatering Prosecco with a lemon-sherbet edge and delectable hint of clover honey, but almost dry finish. Only 11 per cent alcohol, too". Susy Atkins, Sunday Telegraph, 3rd July 2011
"Smooth and bright, with zesty citrus and apricot touches at the back. Easy-going and simple, but balanced and well made." Decanter Panel Tasting - Prosecco Experts Choice, July 2013
"Ruggeri - hands down, this is one of the top five Prosecco producers", Decanter, July 2013
The Ruggeri winery was established in 1950 by Giustino Bisol, whose family boasts a deeply rooted, centuries-old tradition in viticulture in the Valdobbiadene area. The winery was established in Santo Stefano di Valdobbiadene to produce and promote the sparkling Prosecco Superiore and Cartizze wines. It was originally housed in small premises in the village of Santo Stefano di Valdobbiadene. After a temporary move to a larger site in the centre of the village, in the early Nineties it was relocated to new, larger and more rational premises which can receive and process almost 3,000 tons of grapes which are brought there every harvest. Today the winery is run by Paolo Bisol, who is assisted by his children Giustino and Isabella.
The Prosecco Superiore DOCG grapes are usually delivered by over a hundred vine-growers. Nearly all of them have their vineyards in the municipality of Valdobbiadene, while 25 also grow Cartizze grapes. It should be noted that many of the superior vineyards lie in the historic districts of San Pietro di Barbozza. Santo Stefano and Saccol, which have always been renowned for producing the best in terms of quality. Ruggeri owns a small vineyard of Cartizze and 20 hectares on the nearby Montello, 12 of them are cultivated with Pinot Grigio and Glera (traditionally called Prosecco). About 1 hectare is dedicated to the growing of Recantina, an ancient and authochtonous red grape variety which was recovered thanks to the hard work of cooperation with the Istituto Sperimentale Per la Viticoltura di Conegliano (School of Viticulture of Conegliano).
See blue link below for the excellent fiche technique/technical note from the winemakers at Ruggeri (English at the bottom).