Harrow and Hope Blanc de Noirs 2015, England

70% Pinot Noir, 30% Pinot Meunier. Perhaps the top 5-10% of sites in the UK seem to be able to regularly turn out this sort of fruit expression. Henry and Kaye Laithwaite certainly have one in Marlowe, one of the earliest and warmest dedicated sparkling wine sites in the country.

Ripe, expressive blackberry and red apple fruit, even some pineapple, with some delicious maple richness and a refreshing, moreish palate. Real brightness, noticeable in a lineup of mostly Champagne Blanc de Noirs, and a pink grapefruit grip that is starting to settle more now. Excellent 17

/ Blanc de Noirs, England, Harrow and Hope

Wiston Estate Blanc de Blancs 2010, England

Disgorged 2017. All Chardonnay from the Sussex Chalk at Wiston. One of the first vintages here, made by Dermot Sugrue. 

Tangy stewed apple, lime sherbet. Some putty and nougat, a little marine and with a flash of agave vegetality that is not obtrusive. Very tangy citrus syrup on the palate, which has hit a good point on the ageing curve. The style here is less oxidative than more modern Wiston vintages – more oak and less SO2 now? – which, for my money, suits the fruit better, allowing it to hit this sort of point in bottle. 16
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/ Blanc de Blancs, England, Wiston Estate

Digby Fine English Vintage Brut 2010, England

65% Chardonnay, 18% Pinot Noir,17% Pinot Meunier. 2/3rd of the wine (presumably the Chardonnay?) went through MLF. All Stainless Steel. Made by Dermot Sugrue, disgorged in 2017.

An umami hit up front of dried shitake, almost miso caramel-like. Savoury interest meets post-disgorgement characters. Tangy russet apple and apricot, you could take it in all day. Beware though, there’s a train of acid on the palate that you just have to ride! It pulls everything along, all the texture from time on lees, that slightly wild fruit, those golden flavours of age…almost challenging to drink, but in a good way. Reminds me of the Wiston 2009 in some ways. 16.5

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Fox & Fox Essence 2015, England

My first taste of this Chardonnay vintage from one of the top small producers in the country, moving on from the terrific 2014.

A fine follow up – a friendly greeting on the nose with blossom honey on rye bread, hazelnut praline…but underneath a smack of ripe lemon, lime meringues, serious tang. Kapow! Daring, but that opposition is addictive (and delicious)

Not one for the acid-shy. I imagine this one pushed the no-MLF ethos to the limit! The clarity of fruit and some careful taming on the palate means the effect is more like an intense, sweet ‘n sour burst of green mandarin syrup than an unalloyed acid hit, though. 

I would leave this for another 2 to 3 years to get the best out of the different moving parts. 16

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/ Blanc de Blancs, England, Fox & Fox

Leckford Estate Brut 2014, England

Waitrose’s Hampshire vineyard, made at Ridgeview. A couple of years in my cellar here. 55% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir, 20% Pinot Meunier.

A nice dollop of apple sauce, slightly spicy, over a big whack of yellow grapefruit. This grapefruit shows up with a potent, building phenolic presence on the palate that is quite unsettling. The bitterness feels coarse, extracted somehow. These wines are up and down – the fruit is better and riper than the 2015 here, with no greenness, but the palate is a little unhinged. 15

Camel Valley Pinot Noir Rosé Brut 2018

This is one of the original ESW sparkling Rosés – it’s not trying to be Champagne-y in style. All Pinot Noir (predominantly Essex and Sussex fruit I believe) , crushed with the free run going into this wine and the press wine going into still wine. 12 months on lees with no malo – it’s all about the primary fruit.

The heat of the 2018 vintage has given this a little bit more punch and pink grapefruit grip than some years, I think. A bit closer to a light still Rosé with bubbles, maybe, which could say something about making a wine like this in the heat of 2018. Does it have the elegance and clarity of some of the best vintages of this wine? 16

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/ England

Nyetimber Classic Cuvée MV (2014 Base), England

2018 disgorgement, 58% Chardonnay, 31% Pinot Noir, 11% Pinot Meunier.

This is sitting in a lovely spot with equal time on lees and post – disgorgement. With 19% of the wine as reserve from 2009 and 2010 we’re treated to a reasonable amount of time behind this bottle, although in Nyetimber fashion that development is beautifully controlled – some apricot tart and ratafia biscuit over roasted apples, single cream and a zipline of lemon syrup, keeping it moving where some 2014s dissipate a touch. It’s a good vintage in England, and it doesn’t need as much time as the two that surround it. Sometimes the noses are more interesting than the palates, but not here.

Aside from a blend that sits *just so*, there’s a natural satin sheen to the texture here that marks Nyetimber out. Not everyone wants that, of course, but the delicacy with which these wines are handled definitely makes its way into the glass. 16.5

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/ Classic Blend, England, Nyetimber

Fox & Fox Inspiration 2014, England

Pinot Gris from 2014 with a smidgen of Chardonnay, from this delightful producer nestled in the green folds of the High Weald.

Where to start – day 1 this was so floaty and exotic, with green tropical fruits and candied lemon, with this attractive light leafiness, like lime leaves. Day 2 and the post-disgorgement character is just delightful – candied citrus pastries, street-vendor sugared almonds. Still this nice meadow-flower Englishness above it all, a layer of greeny-whiteness.

It is much more Chardonnay-like than it is Pinot-like to me, if that makes sense. Kind of Chardonnay-on-a-night-out. Delicacy and citric zinginess, not too dry, lovely balance and clarity of flavour. Where else could you find Pinot Gris like this? 17

/ England, Fox & Fox, Other

Squerryes Brut Reserve 2014 in Magnum, England

Still very primary in magnum. There’s a lovely aromatic side to this, quite breezy with some elderflower and meadow flower notes. Ripe, though – fresh raspberry and pear fruit with a little bit of tropical yellow fruit pointing at the easy nature of the 2014 season. Accomplished wine, although I don’t know if this is better ( at the moment) than the 75cls I tasted last year. Even longer on lees would have been brilliant, and more time on cork will develop those flavours. 17



/ Classic Blend, England, Squerryes

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