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

Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millénaires 2004, Champagne

The top wine in the range for now (the 2006 is the current release). Blanc de Blancs from Oger, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Avize, Cramant and Vertus. At the time this was only the fifth release since 1983. Its predecessor, the wonderful 1995, was made in such large quantities that we didn’t get a 1998 or a 2002. Shame..

You need to leave this wine for a little while after opening. When it starts to go, it really goes – beautifully fresh, with pineapple pastries, lemon cream and this slightly exotic jasmine/orange blossom character over sweet mango. If it sounds extroverted it really isn’t – the ‘white’ is still in front of the ‘golden’ in terms of flavour for now, although the aromas all sit on a very pleasing cushion of crème-pâtissière richness.

What I love is how this headiness is delivered with such calmness and coolness in shape and texture. Beautiful precision and true, delicate chalkiness building to a delicate play of grapefruity bitterness and developing nougatty warmth. Oh, and the mousse is so measured, like smooth satin. The insistence and drama of headline vintages like 2002 or 2008 is not really the story – it reinforces my idea of 2004 as having a quieter, politer sort of finesse. 18

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Ferrari Perlé 2012, TrentoDOC

100% Chardonnay. Took a while to wake. When it does the Ferrari style emerges,  with elegant pepper and ginger over charred grapefruit and mandarin. Beneath it white peach sweetness and beautiful cool, creaminess. A rush of citrus peel on the palate, although it feels just a touch angular and not as silky as some editions on this showing. Still very fine. Maybe it didn’t benefit much from being cellared for a couple of years? These wines are so luminous on release normally. 16.5
/ Blanc de Blancs, Ferrari, TrentoDOC

Bellavista Franciacorta Satèn 2015

100% Chardonnay, 65 % oak fermentation. Disgorged Autumn 2019. I love the hedonistic style here, with lots of candied lemon, lime and yellow tropical fruits, wrapped up in white chocolate and hazelnut wafers. Just puts a smile on your face.

But there’s detail and nuance too, from interesting florals to heady vanilla/tonka. Some real grace in how the palate plays out too, even being wrapped in silky-sweet pasticceria goodness. Cin cin! 17

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Ferghettina Franciacorta Satèn 2015

100% Chardonnay, 10% barrique with 3 yrs on lees.
Lumpen, feeling both over and under-ripe in ways. Pineapple almond, with sourdough crackers a little yeasty richness, but some tough phenolics and little elegance here. 15

Bonfadini Franciacorta Satèn Carpe Diem

100% Chardonnay, steel and oak with 24 months on lees minimum. Dosage 6.5g/l

Peach yoghurt and a slightly funky jackfruit aroma on opening, then some interesting aromatics – a snap of chicory and charred lime peel veer towards herbaceousness, but talc and something lavendar-like add some intrigue. Pineapple sweets. A decent mousse, plateauing with herbal sage and lime flirting round the edges. Not totally harmonious but full of interest. Orange oil on the finish. 16

/ Blanc de Blancs, Bonfadini, Franciacorta

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

Mosnel Satèn 2015, Franciacorta

Mosnel’s 2015 Satèn is a real charmer. 100% Chardonnay, disgorged October 2019. All estate fruit from Carmignone. 

Dried yellow apples and pear tart, lovely candied yellow grapefruit and this subtle perfumed note that reminds me of jasmine and Turkish delight.

You’re hit with a lovely peachy/juicy pear ripeness up front, but there is enough transparency and interest – flower, pepper, chalk, even a nicely pitched reductive streak –  to stop the sweet-natured fruit running away with the whole show. It would be ungainly, jarring even with a big, zippy, insistent mousse. Silk is where it’s at for this style. Approachable. 16

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/ Blanc de Blancs, Franciacorta, Mosnel

Radgonske Gorice Untouched by Light, Slovenia

Attended an unusual launch of what should probably be called a ‘concept wine’ last week, and good fun it was too. Slovenian producer @radgonske_gorice has made a 100% Chardonnay without any exposure to light from picking until opening! Why? To raise awareness of light strike, the damage caused to wine by exposure to light. Laudable stuff.

The wine itself? Untouched By Light is from the 2016 vintage, with 2000 bottles made. The vineyards are near the winery in Gornja Radgona near the Austrian border. A sunny, approachable style with golden apples, acacia honey and peach blossom. Slightly waxy with a little grapefruit pith bite, a little anise fragrance and gentle acidity. Solid, straightforward. The price is a rather ambitious 100EU. 

Really nice to see some trad-method fizz from lesser-known regions make it to these shores, though. 15.5