Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs 2013, England

My last of these – this wine still has legs though. Charlie Holland’s first vintage in Kent. The best English 2013s have taken some time to emerge fully, but when they do they can be excellent. It was a very late harvest, with low sugars and high acids. But those that got there with ripeness made some fine. precisely-styled wines.

This is starting to show delicious tertiary notes, some truffle and pepper. There’s actually a touch of smoky reductive character playing into that, which I love. Have more recent wines seen a more open style, or is that just the vintage? Some roasted pineapple and delicious charred apricot tart, beautifully contained and delivered with cool, creamy autolytic texture. A lick of tangerine on the finish. This has real finesse, and has come round from an in-betweeny stage when I last tasted 18 months ago. 17.5
/ Blanc de Blancs, England, Gusbourne

Harrow & Hope Blanc de Noirs 2015

Checking in again with this fine Blanc de Noirs from Henry and Kaye Laithwaite in Marlowe, Bucks.
Bristly pink grapefruit and orange orange, red apple and some nice golden fruits rounded out with set honey and herbs. The intensity of flavour is quite high for English Sparkling here, although the wine hasn’t quite settled in bottle as I was thinking it might; still quite a grippy, punchy style! Actually feels slightly extracted, in some ways.  I do like it though. I’ll leave the other bottles for a little longer. 17
/ Blanc de Noirs, England, Harrow and Hope

Wiston NV Brut, England

2015 Base. 1/3rd each Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Disgorged July 2017. 

This is Wiston’s entry level wine, of which the the 2014 base was very solid. It is all stainless steel and includes some bought-in fruit, unlike the vintage cuvées. The 2015 feels more open in style than I remember the 2014. Some baked red apple and a nut-oil oxidative streak behind behind floral honey and orange. A slightly unyielding nature despite some softening maturity. Is this as fresh as the 2014 base? 15

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/ Classic Blend, England, Wiston Estate

Fox and Fox Tradition 2014 Magnum

100% Pinot Noir. No MLF. 4.5yrs on lees, 1 yr on cork.

Creamy, alluring apple blossom and fresh raspberry/blackberry aromas, cinnamon-spiced apple and an engaging autolytic richness. Some savoury touches here, which I like –  creamed mushroom and nut butter. Clarity, purity and length on the palate, although the mousse needs to settle a bit with further time. There are little nuances here –  honey, dried lime, anise. So complex and engaging. Dosage hits a little front-end perhaps but bodes very well for the future. Wonderful. 17.5

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/ Blanc de Noirs, England, Fox & Fox

Ridgeview Blanc de Blancs 2009 Magnum

All steel. Original chardonnay vines near the winery. Full MLF, 112 months on lees. Disgorged November 19.

Lovely gunpowder reductive character which threads right through the whole wine beautifully. Very fine candied grapefruit on toast presented with tremendous internal freshness. Subtleties of white pepper, white flowers (lily/bergamot?), very faint truffle honey even. What a gorgeous set of flavours! Some lemon tart richness starting to build, but it is embryonic. Refinement in texture and a truly energetic finish in evidence. Top tier, and will be very long-lived. 18

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/ Blanc de Blancs, England, Ridgeview

Ridgeview Oak Reserve NV

All Chardonnay from the original vineyards at Ridgeview.  Just 11 months on lees (!) .2015, 16 and 17 vintages. 3 g/l dosage. 

Fresh lemony oak, white butter, the wood is fairly bold but of high quality with nutmeg/yellow spice and a nice sweet dill/fennel note. The palate is harmonious, with some real finesse to the texture inside the slightly grippy, but fresh oak. The incisive fruit still shines, with the acidity just in check. Feels very youthful, but stylish and moreish. 16.5

£75 direct from Ridgeview

/ Blanc de Blancs, England, Ridgeview

Leckford Estate Brut 2015

 55% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir and 20% Pinot Meunier. All steel, c.3 years on lees.

Made by Ridgeview for Waitrose from grapes grown at Waitrose’s own Leckford farm in Hampshire.
 
2015 really is a bit up and down in England – the fruit here is not perhaps quite up to previous releases, although it’s cleanly-made and acceptable value at the offer price of sub £20. Apple, meadow flowers and a touch of cowslip greenness, a bit lean in truth but there are some nice yellow stone fruit and pale pastry tones. 15

Oxney Classic 2016

45% Pinot Noir, 47% Pinot Meunier, 8% Chardonnay made in-house at this low-lying site in East Sussex, just across the county border from Gusbourne in Kent.

Quite distinctive in style this, cool and slightly green with elderflower and cowslip mingling with cox apple and light honey. Some deliberate savoury oxidative characters add subtle interest and seem to sit well with the wild, lithe style of this cuvée. I think this has lost a little freshness since tasted at the end of 2019. 15

Coolhurst Demi-Sec Rosé 2016

 

100% Pinot Noir from the 2016 vintage, with 32 g/l dosage.

As soon as Charlie from @coolhurstvineyards told me they were doing this wine I thought ‘yes’! Their dry wines have offered up such fresh, silky and refined expressions of English Pinot that all the extra dosage does is add a natural, balanced fruit sweetness.

Some classic fresh red fruits as you’d expect, but also ripe red apples, clementine and white peach, a twist of pepper and gingerbread, delicate white rose and meringue. There’s some crabapple jelly, but not a hint of anything wild or herbaceous. No rough edges, just pure delicacy from great fruit and sensitive winemaking ( Ulrich Hoffmann at @hoffmannandrathbone .)

An addictive little redcurrant pip twist pops up on the finish, joining the polished acidity in maintaining proper tension and length, too. This is the first Demi-Sec to properly grab me from the UK. Hats off! 17

Simpsons Wine Estate Chalklands Classic Cuvée 2017

Simpsons didn’t use as much inert pressing for the 2017 vintage of the Chalklands Classic Cuvée as was used in 2016, and Charles explains that the resulting wine has a more oxidative style.* The 2017, composed of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay fermented in steel and aged on lees for 20 months, pours a notably golden hue, with an inviting vein of almond and set honey running through farm-shop apple juice (the posh stuff). It wears a light and bright texture beneath this open stance, with some delicacy and a fine, appetising almond-skin substance on the close, unimpeded by difficult acidity or dosage – a sign of good fruit in England.

The oxidative surface here speaks of more than just pressing, to me – this is a wine that has been deliberately given a shot of maturity beyond its years. It could really land with anyone wanting a change from the frank, LED-bright styles we sometimes get at entry level. 16