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

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

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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Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition Grand Cru, Champagne

2013 base. 70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay. Ambonnay, Bouzy, Verzenay. 50% barrel fermenation. Broad-shouldered stuff with the walnut, beeswax and spice patina of old oak over some big roasted red pear fruit and a touch of honeyed plum. Hard not to smile at that nose. Spreads out rather than pushing on with forward motion.

Just a trace of bruised fruit, spiked a little with some oxidative notes. A bit plump. Still very appealing though – perhaps this would have been a shade brighter a year or two ago. I got this for a good price, but since then they have moved quite a bit unfortunately. 16.5

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/ Champagne, Classic Blend, Egly-Ouriet

Louis Roederer Brut Premier, Champagne

2013 Base. 40% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Meunier. So great to taste this with an extra 2 years on cork.

An enveloping, enticing nose! Roast red apples and citrus still lightened with blossom notes but turning golden with maple/pecan/coffee richness now. A slightly fudgy blackberry and apple warmth with some yellow spice – reserve wines? Open and unified on the palate, a lightness but not tightness of the 2013 vintage in evidence with a delicate tang. Leaves an addictive waft of pecan, caramel apple and ratafia on the finish. Definitely worth cellaring these. 17

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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

Natalie Falmet Brut NV, Champagne

2013 base? Or 2014? Disgorged June 2018.

50% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay, 20% reserves from this small producer in the Côte des Bar. Some evolution here with some nice creamy walnut, a touch wild appleyness and red pear, alongside some juicy cherry and apricot kernel sweetness. Some oxidative development. A bit simple, but enjoyable and the mousse is nicely refined. I think this is better than it is showing, and perhaps a bit long in the tooth – maybe aim to drink nearer disgorgement? 15.5