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

La Closerie ‘Fac-Simile’, Champagne

Jeröme Prévost. Pinot Meunier from light sand/clay in Gueux. Barrel vinification, 2016 vintage.

This is a bit of a unicorn wine now. Very impressive too, and more elegant than I was expecting. Perhaps these couple of years post-disgorgement have settled it down a little? There’s a classic orangey tinge (both in flavour and colour) here to strawberry tart and gentle tobacco smoke, with lovely floaty florals and some spiced frangipane and nougat richness coming on. A singular wine, quite alluring and a bit of a shape-shifter in the glass. 17

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/ Champagne, La Closerie, Rosé

Veuve Fourny &. Fils Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut Champagne

Vertus Chardonnay. 25% Oak, 20% Reserve wines.

This seems incredibly youthful. Amylic notes and esters abounding, pear, blossom and icing sugar. Seems very simple, if cleanly made. Not sure of the base vintage here but this is very primary still. A bit more time on cork might bring out some nuance. 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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Pierre Peters Cuvée de Réserve Blanc de Blancs, Champagne

2 years on lees. Northern Cote des Blancs Chardonnay, based on the very difficult 2017 vintage with 40% reserve wines. All steel, all malo.

I think of this as a bit of a ‘barometer’ Champagne. For me, that means a reliable, transparent style that tells you something about the time and place it comes from without lots of time on lees/oak to add to the picture. 

2017’s difficulties were centered on the North and West of Champagne though, with heat and rain hitting Meunier and Pinot Noir hard with rot. For Chardonnay (and the Southern reaches of the region) it was a better year overall. This has some of the bustle and exuberance of a high-maturity vintage, accessible rather than tense in style. Not quite reaching the heights of 2012/13 based wines I tried (especially in magnum!) 16 

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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

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