Now that it’s the season of wine travels, for me no departure is complete without a pit stop pre-boarding at the House of Caviar bar at Heathrow Airport. Of all the whites on the menu, whether I’m eating or not, the delicious English still wine from Will Davenport is fast becoming my absolute favourite go-to white.
A deliciously vibrant, crystalline blend of Bacchus, Faber, Huxelrebe, Ortega and Siegerrebe, it combines incredible freshness, clarity, purity and mouthwatering acidity, all delivered in a manner more familiar to premium dry mineral whites from the Loire, the Alto Adige, Germany or Switzerland.
Organically farmed fruit, the nose is beautifully floral with notes of lemon blossom, lemon grass, white citrus, dusty green pear purée and an alluring green apple pastille zest. The palate is crystalline, bright and incredibly pure, like drinking freshly melted glacial water doctored with a slice of green apple and a twist of lime. So uplifting, refreshing and easy to drink with its meagre 11.5 alcohol, this is one of the best English still whites I’ve tasted in a long time.
With summer on its way, track this classy dry wine down either directly from Davenport Vineyards in Sussex, from their distributor Vintage Roots, or else at House of Caviar at Heathrow Terminal 3. Just make sure you try it!
(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
This historic estate dates back to 1503 with the exquisite Tudor-framed Hush Heath Manor serving as the family home of the Balfour-Lynn’s. The Manor nestles into the hill, overlooking the vineyards and estate with magnificent views across the Weald of Kent. The 160 hectares situated in an ancient oak woodland is impressive and a fitting setting for the Balfour wines.
The 2016 Pinot Noir is sourced from 16 hectares of vines planted on Wealden Clay over Tunbridge Wells Sand. Farmed environmentally friendly, the Burgundian Clones of Pinot Noir are trellised to the double guyot vertical shoot positioning system with a planting density of 3,300 vines per hectare. The 2016 harvest was hand picked between the 12th and 13th of October 2016.
Winemakers Owen Elias and Victoria Ash over saw the relatively cool fermentation’s at 26 to 28 degrees C on de-stemmed skins resulting in vibrant colour extraction and a lively fruit structure. The wine also underwent full malolactic fermentation before being aged for several months in American and French oak barrels.
Hush Heath Manor Pinot Noir 2016, Kent, English Quality Wine, 12 Abv.
An attractively vibrant crystalline ruby red colour, this wine possesses all the elegant perfumed beauty you’d expect from world class Pinot Noir. There are plenty of fragrant violets, cherry blossom and freshly plucked rose petals over scents of sappy spice, crushed red cherries, blackberries, pepper corns and resinous wood spice. Medium bodied and taughtly structured with a fine core of sweet / sour red plum fruits and vibrant, tart crunchy mouth watering acids. But unlike some cooler vintages, this wine’s palate shows ample flesh, a sweet depth of cherry and cranberry fruit and a complex array of exotic baking spices and raspberry herbal tea infusions on the long, persistent finish. Delicious to drink now already, this serious effort should show even more harmony and elegance in 1 to 2 years time.
(Wine Safari Score: 91+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
It might just be me, it might just be my palate, but I really do enjoy the light, crystalline freshness and tart acidity of well made English still wines. Often written off as an after thought in comparison to the numerous prestigious sparkling wines taking the nation by storm, I have for years been a dissenting voice, challenging the notion that English still wines are frivolous and have no real future.
This week I was drinking another juicy effort made by Court Garden in East Sussex. In Saxon times the farm was known as the Manor of Ditchling Garden, and from the Middle Ages onwards, it was held by the monks at the priory in Lewes. After the Reformation it was owned by the crown, which is when it became known as Court Garden.
Established in 2005, Court Garden Vineyard is a family run 6.8 hectare single-estate mainly planted with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. In 2008 they added Pinot Gris, Ortega, Dornfelder and Rondo. The vineyards are situated on an attractive south facing slope with the South Downs as a scenic back drop.
Court Garden Ditchling White Blend 2016, East Sussex, 11.5 Abv.
An accomplished little white from the East Sussex countryside. A blend of 75% Chardonnay, 13% Pinot Gris, and 12% Ortega. Following good summer ripening the Chardonnay was barrel fermented in French oak before being blended. First impressions are of an intense, aromatic, crisp, crunchy green fruited white full of brightness, limey zest, green Granny Smith apples, a touch of white peach and expressive, yellow grapefruit citrus depth. The longer it sits in the glass, the more it broadens and fleshes out. Beautiful clarity, crystalline purity, and impressive underlying stony, chalky minerality. Must be a perfect aperitif style or certainly a very fine seafood / shellfish wine match. Delicious, more’ish and energetically fresh, drink now and over the next 2-3 years.
(Wine Safari Score: 88/100 Greg Sherwood MW)