House of Arras Grand Vintage 2008, Tasmania

65% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir. 7 years on lees. 

Another data point for this wine, and it is showing as brilliantly as ever. Such a good vintage! The balance point between fruit – candied citrus and dried apple, lemon posset, creamy strawberry – and the ‘Arras’ hallmarks of salt/iodine/toffee/florals is just right. Focused, intense but elegant and full of refreshment. It plays on and on. 18 

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/ Arras, Classic Blend, Tasmania

House of Arras Grand Vintage 2007, Tasmania

78% Chardonnay, 22% Pinot Noir. 7 years on lees.

An extra few years on cork has brought out the intensity of this wine, with some cooked lime and toffee apple showing over powerful candied grapefruit and dried peach. That lovely oyster/iodine sense of fresh air hangs around, tempering the richness here. A big character – the 08 steals the show, feeling tauter, shinier, and ultimately more engaging. Still this is a very fine sparkling wine. 17

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/ Arras, Classic Blend, Tasmania

House of Arras Ed Carr Late Disgorged 2004, Tasmania

13 years on lees. 69% Chardonnay, 31% Pinot Noir.  DIsgorged mid 2020.

This is remarkable stuff. Previously I have sometimes found this a bit too intense with the leesy characters, but this is beautifully honed and harmonious today. I think it is a good idea to open it a bit early and let it settle.

The aura of ‘white’ flavours – sea salt/iodine/sourdough starter, salty white butter and truffle hangs over charred candied lemon and apricot/peach fruit. Beautiful citric freshness and just the right level of unctuosity on the palate. It doesn’t obscure the line, length or refreshment value. We’re not seeing the toffeed/caramelised notes of the Grand Vintages tasted alongside.

I would drink this within a couple of years of disgorgement. 18.5 

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/ Arras, Classic Blend, Tasmania

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

Bollinger La Grande Année 2012, Champagne

65% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay, all Grand Cru. Fully oak fermented, with 6 years on lees. This has the ‘mini magnum’ neck – slimmer to cut down on the oxygen ingress.

This is arresting stuff, although it is a little more developed than I was expecting with maple and pecan, roasted apple and a supporting candied citrus intensity. Rich hazelnut and a front-loaded shape. I wonder whether this bottle is absolutely at 100%, or whether it is slightly over-evolved? Powerful but not quite an enlivening as it could be. 17 

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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

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

Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve (2016 base)

Brut Réserve has been evolving over the last five years. Lees-ageing is down from the heights of 6 or 7 years to around 3 for current releases. From 2016 onwards 5-7% of old oak is in use too; something that appears to go hand-in-hand.

2016 base (mise en cave 2017), disgorged 2020. (I wish they’d give a month by the way). I believe this is still 40% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir and 20% Pinot Meunier with an addition of 46% reserve wine.

On popping the cork I was surprised by some roasted spices – a little oxidative flourish almost. This blew off and the heart of the wine came through, although it took a little while to open.

Roast apples and apricot pasties, a very sweet golden profile of mango lifted up with pepper and toasted almonds. The oak is there with a supporting line of sweet, buttery citrus-oil and vanilla richness, and there are some touches of licorice and something peppery that I love.

It is a bit jumpy, especially on day one. Day two is a different story – the texture has really settled. There is bristling, youthful energy and a fine kind of grippiness to it in comparison to the luscious, limpid creaminess of previous bottlings, but the balance and internal build feels as flawless as ever. 

 It’s still one of the first I’d pick off the shelf, and one of Champagne’s essential purchases. 17 (could be 17.5 with more bottle age)

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House of Arras Grand Vintage 2008

65% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay in this vintage. Disgorged 2017. A Tasmanian classic.

This really was stunning, with everything counterbalanced perfectly.

Intense, heady charred and candied citrus next to a very distinctive creamy note like red berry fromage frais – such a well-defined leesy style here! – little touches of toffee round the edges and trademark briny, marine kind of edginess.

Posh tropical fruit patisserie hinting at delicious development now – whilst I wasn’t sure the 07 was one for ageing, the 08 seems tighter, better built. Yes there is breadth, but is so smooth and refined at heart. 18

/ Arras, Classic Blend, Tasmania

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