English Wine Week: Celebrating our homegrown talent

English Wine Week, which runs until 26th June, is a chance to celebrate homegrown talent. The quality of English wine is flourishing. Elegant purity of fruit and refreshing acidity continue to excite the palates of many. With a bumper vintage in 2018, vines coming of age and producers honing their skills, the industry is moving from strength to strength.

Several years of building reserve wines has allowed many producers to make non-vintage wines with a distinct house style, while others continue to express the unique character of a single vintage. Regional styles are emerging too, with producers such as Rathfinny Wine Estate in East Sussex highlighting the excellence of the South Down’s chalk belt and championing single estate wines with a sense of place.

Production is not just confined to sparkling wines. Many producers, including Stopham Estate in West Sussex, also make impressive still wines. Aromatic varieties such as Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris have thrived in recent warmer vintages and are delivering refreshing white wines with real depth of fruit and intensity to temper our cool climate acidity.

Candover Brook, Rosé NV

The latest addition to our portfolio, Candover Brook was the top scoring English Rosé at the 2022 Decanter World Wine Awards. Candover Brook is a family-run estate situated in the idyllic countryside of the Candover Valley in Hampshire. The name is a nod to the chalk stream which runs through the estate and is home to the rare English White Clawed Crayfish, depicted on the label. Their maiden release is a blend of 54% Chardonnay, 33% Pinot Noir and 13% Meunier. Fifteen percent of reserve wine, from a solera dating back to 2011, was blended with the exceptional 2018 vintage to lend the vibrant purity of fruit an impressive depth and intensity of flavour. It has a vivid pink hue with lively aromas of fresh strawberry, cranberry and toasted brioche.

Matthew Jukes (March 2022): "This is one of the most stunning, English rosés I have tasted, and the super-smooth, incredibly pure fruit is mesmerising. I urge you to track down a bottle and raise a glass to this brave new label as soon as you possibly can - they have cracked the hardest style of sparkling wine in their very first attempt."

Amy Wislocki, Decanter (January 2022): "It's an accomplished rosé, with vibrant and perfumed, bright red berry fruit that bursts from the glass. On the evidence of this, Candover Brook is an exciting new name on the English wine scene."

Rathfinny Wine Estate, Classic Cuvée Brut 2018

All of Rathfinny’s wines are sourced exclusively from their sustainably farmed estate vineyards, which are located just three miles from the Channel. South-facing slopes and free-draining chalk soils provide the ideal conditions to ripen grapes for sparkling wine. The 2018 vintage of their Classic Cuvée is a blend of 50% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay and 15% Meunier. It was fermented in stainless steel and, like all Rathfinny’s base wines, went through malolactic fermentation. It was aged on lees in bottle for 30 months prior to disgorgement. The black grape character gives it rich depth of flavour, while just 5g/l dosage showcases the wine’s purity of fruit. On the nose, it has aromas of grapefruit, red apple and brioche. The palate is focused, with zesty acidity tempered by the wine’s creamy texture and rich, biscuity notes.

Susy Atkins, Decanter (April 2022): "With its bright, light golden hue, and array of enticing flavours – oranges and lemons, peach, mint and tea biscuits – the vivacious 2018 single estate brut from Rathfinny shows great finesse. It's the winery's best release yet."

Rathfinny Wine Estate, Blanc de Blancs 2017

Rathfinny’s 2017 Blanc de Blancs is 100% Chardonnay. They use a selection of Burgundy clones for this cuvée, which produce small, concentrated berries. The 2017 was aged for 36 months prior to disgorgement. It is pale lemon in colour with flecks of gold. The nose is characterised by aromas of lemon curd, pastry and citrus blossom. The palate displays fine balance with linear acidity and creamy mouthfeel. The finish is long with salty notes developing into richer aromas of roasted hazelnut and toast.

Matthew Jukes (June 2021): "Absolutely delicious and a wine that plays a clever game of being juicy but also cleansingly tart. Well-balanced and enticing with a firm, lemony theme and yet there is beautiful creaminess here without being too unctuous or overpowering, this is a superbly well-managed wine."

Amy Wislocki, Decanter (April 2021): "There's a weight of ripe fruit on the nose and palate, almost tropical in character. It's rich and mouthfilling, with fresh acidity and a lick of salinity. Pair it with salmon, seafood, or even cheese soufflé."

Nyetimber, Classic Cuvée NV

Nyetimber was the first producer to make English sparkling wine exclusively from the Champagne varieties Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier. Now more than 30 years old, the estate is rightly considered a leader in the world of sparkling wine. Head winemaker Cherie Spriggs won the much-coveted IWC ‘Sparkling Winemaker of the Year’ in 2018. She is the first winemaker outside of Champagne and the first woman to achieve this impressive accolade. Nyetimber’s flagship wine is a blend of 60% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and 10% Meunier sourced from vineyards in West Sussex and Hampshire. The grapes were gently pressed in shallow Coquard presses and vinified in stainless steel. The base wines were blended with 30% reserve wines, which were on average four years old. The wine was aged for 36 months prior to disgorgement and 9.5 g/l dosage, which has imparted a creamy mouthfeel. On the palate, layered aromas of honey and toasted almond pastry are complemented by vivid citrus fruit and a fine vein of acidity.

To commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee, this wine is available in a limited edition bottle for a limited time only.

Jancis Robinson MW 17.5 points (December 2021): "Really interesting, layered nose. Absolutely no excess of acidity at all, so I would guess there is quite a bit of reserve wine in here. Really a standout in terms of balance. I'd love to taste this blind with a similarly priced champagne. Smoky, broad and mouth-filling."

Nyetimber, ‘Cuvée Chérie’ Demi-Sec NV

Nyetimber's ‘Cuvée Chérie’ Demi-Sec is a gastronomic wine, which pairs brilliantly with fruity desserts and fragrant savoury dishes alike. Its name is a reference to Nyetimber’s skilled winemaker, Cherie Spriggs, as well as its higher level of dosage. Aged for five years on its lees and with 38g/l dosage, it has vivid aromas of tangerine, baked apple and pastry.

Bride Valley, Brut Réserve 2017

Bride Valley is the realisation of a long-term dream held by the late Steven Spurrier and his wife Arabella. The estate is based in West Dorset, four miles from the Jurassic Coast. Steven first had the soil tested in the 1980s and discovered it had a similar composition to the chalky soils of Champagne. After two decades and three visits from Boisset's sparkling wine expert, Georges Legrand, vines were planted on the best sites in the bowl of the amphitheatre-like estate, which is farmed following organic principles. Their 2017 Brut Réserve is a blend of 50% Chardonnay, 39% Pinot Noir and 11% Meunier. The palate has excellent focus and energy with nervy acidity and vibrant citrus fruit concentration, leading to a refreshing and moreish finish.

Bride Valley, Dorset Chardonnay 2019

Due to the exceptional 2019 vintage, Steven Spurrier made the decision to produce Bride Valley’s second vintage of still wine, The fruit for this Chardonnay was vinified in stainless steel and then left for four months on its lees. Pale lemon in colour with a touch of green, akin to Chablis, this has aromas of green apple and citrus blossom, complemented by hints of wet stone and lime peel. The palate couples impressive depth of fruit with mouth-watering acidity that lifts the finish.

Stopham Estate, Pinot Blanc 2021

We believe some of England’s best still wines are produced by this small estate in the South Downs National Park, an area of outstanding natural beauty. The estate was founded by former Formula 1 engineer, Simon Woodhead, with the motto of ‘Precision, Passion, Craft and Sustainability’. Simon practises sustainable farming, by employing careful soil management, encouraging natural biodiversity and integrated pest management. Their Pinot Blanc is fermented in stainless steel under strict temperature control to enhance the variety’s crisp aromatics. Malolactic fermentation was avoided, and the wine was kept on its fine lees for around 10 months, imparting silky mouthfeel. The 2021 vintage displays lifted aromas of white pepper, almond and pear. On the palate, honeydew melon and sweet fennel are tempered by zesty acidity and a subtle spiciness. Well-balanced, this wine has a juicy core which leads to a refreshing, fruit-driven finish.

Stopham Estate, Brut 2018

Stopham Estate’s Brut is a blend of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir, aged for 24 months on its lees. It is pure and precise with a lively palate of grapefruit, baked apple and honey. Stopham describe the 2018 vintage as an incredible year, where an abundance of sunshine, warmth and long sunny days led to fantastic fruit set and healthy yields of exceptional quality grapes. \

Photo: Rathfinny Wine Estate