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Six months ago, I sent an email out to a stranger asking if I could interview them for a podcast on English wine. At that time, I didn’t have any equipment, I had no idea how to edit audio, and in truth had no idea how much work the whole process would be - which is probably for the best else I may not have done it. Throughout August and September, with news reports quoting the best summer on record, I travelled around the country.
I initially set out to discover if regional styles existed in England, in the way that Bordeaux and Burgundy exist in France. I quickly discovered that that wasn’t to be the case - instead the individual sites, vineyard managers, and winemakers were the real heroes of English wine.
They are the people who against all odds produce wine year in-year out. And we have to remember that while 2018 is indeed the vintage of a century, it comes off the back of a few terrible vintages in which the vast majority of people lost a lot money. Wine, as the saying goes, is a great industry to make a small fortune by starting with a large one.
I interviewed sixteen people in the wine industry this summer and spoke to many more for background and information. This podcast really is an homage to all of them. I hope you enjoy listening as much as I enjoyed making (and drinking) it.
(Other links coming once Google hurries up and indexes the thing).
As part of this special, I thought I’d include my highlight English wines I’ve tasted this year, with two particularly special wines to me right at the top.
English red of the year: Diamond Fields Pinot Noir, Davenport, 2016
Had a taste of the Diamond Hills 2016 pinot last night by @limneyfarm. It’s one of the best English pinot displays I’ve seen so far. Bright cherries, slightly herbal, some soft spices (clove?), charred wood, and the ever so faintest hint of game. Good body and balance: a real delight to drink. (2019, £22 from Twisted Cellar).
English sparkling rosé of the year: Pinot Meunier, Exton Park, NV
Wow, wow, wow. This was the ‘wine’ for me in terms of sparkling rosé. I never understood the fuse before. This is lovely. Fresh, stone fruits, some red fruits, floral, well textured. £40 from Vivino.
Cuvée Reynolds Stone, Breaky Bottom, 2010. This was an IWC Gold Winner and it really shows. Very elegant, lemon, apples, brioche, really gentle autolysis. Smooth mousse. Drank as a toast in the morning one day and a brilliant morning toast it was indeed. £354 for a case of 6 direct from Breaky Bottom, or alternatively Taurus Wine has bottles for £39.99.
Pinot noir rosé, Dunleavy, 2017. Very different style to what I’m drinking at the moment (Provencal rosé), but a delight. Way more strawberries than I expected. Taste of Wimbledon. £15.99 from Novel Wines.
Horsmonden Dry White, Davenport, 2017. Best display of English white I’ve seen yet. Lemon peel/rind, grapey, acid doesn’t feel overpowering. Bit of peach. Bacchus, Ortega, Faber, Siegerrebe and Huxelrebe. £17.50 from Buon Vino.
Rosé, Blackbook, 2017. Amazing rosé from London urban winery Blackbook Winery. Grapes are sourced from a farm in Essex, which produces this refreshingly complex rosé. For many people, rosé means Provence and with good reason. They definitely make incredible wine there. However, the style has so much more to offer than just ultra crisp, light fruit, quaffers. Blackbook’s offers a much wider palate that is definitely worth exploring. Available for £18.95.
Pinot Noir, Blackbook, 2017. After getting back from a trip to Hungary, I wanted to settle into something lighter weight and familiar. Sergio’s pinot hits that spot. It’s incredibly light in colour, almost rosé-esque. It’s got a savouriness to it that matches as well. It develops well over an hour or so. Complexity builds until you’ve got refreshing, soft red fruits, gentle spice and mild greenery in the background. One to watch. You can pick up Blackbook's 2018 Pinot Noir for £21.
Classic Cuvee, Oxney, 2015. This is one of my favourite English sparklers I’ve had. A great brioche autolytic nose, appley fruit, with a really gentle mousse. This is one of England’s few organic wines and a real delight to try. £35, or alternatively grab a 2016 vintage for £32.
Pinot Noir, Chapel Down, 2014. Chapel Down - now England’s largest winemaker - deliver with this, and incredibly affordable too (under £15). English pinot flirts with a balance between herbaceousness and fruit from an English countryside. This leans on the fruit with a soft herbaceousness that feels very English.