Exploring the Fascinating Wines and Vineyards of Biodynamic Ancre Hill Estate in Wales…

It was a real priviledge for me recently to travel down to Ancre Hill Estates in Wales with renowned wine critic Neal Martin, to visit the vineyards and winery and taste an extensive selection of their wines. Indeed, Neal Martin only just recently released the Wine Advocate’s first ever English Sparkling Wine Report, scoring a broad cross section of sparkling wines for the publication.

Since the release of their first vintage in 2008, Ancre Hill Estates has been recognised with medals in some of the top international wine competitions in the world, including Decanter, IWSC, IWC and winning the Bollicine del Mondo in 2012. 

In order to continue their ongoing development, plans for the construction of a new winery on the Estate were approved in 2012, with the winery building works finished in 2015.

The Ancre Hill Estates Winery represents an extension of their philosophy in the vineyard, namely, external inputs are minimal, with the implementation of sustainable technologies. Natural materials were used over synthetic ones wherever possible with the walls of the winery being constructed from straw bales and a living, green roof, which provides temperature and humidity regulation. Waste water is treated by a series of ecological pools and plantings which also provide many of the plants and wild flowers used in their biodynamic tea treatments for the vineyard.

The style of their wines continues to evolve, with small batch fermentations occurring almost entirely in oak barrels and concrete cuves. Fermentations are solely carried out by wild yeasts and bacteria with the avoidance of filtration and fining for the finished wines wherever possible. Their wines, as with their grapes, are fully DEMETER certified since 2014, adhering to the strictest biodynamic production criteria.

Ancre Hill Tasting:

Blanc de Blancs 2009 

5.5 years on lees, Zero dosage, 12% Abv. The first vintage from the Chardonnay Vineyard (planted in 2007). Rich buttery leesy nose with plenty of waxy yellow citrus, yellow orchard fruits, cooked fruits and a dusty minerality. Palate is crystalline and pure, with zesty acids balanced with sherbity mousse and a very long, lingering finish. Harmonious, crisp and characterful. 

(Wine Safari Score: 88+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Blanc de Blancs 2010

5.5 years on lees, 11% Abv. Slightly dusty, white citrus nose with white blossom and summer orchard fruits. Just a subtle savoury dimension combined with very fine freshness and leesy aromatic complexity. Mousse is zesty, lively and more grippy, with a cream soda spritz and a very long creamy, lemon sherbet finish. Very fine indeed. 

(Wine Safari Score: 91+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Blanc de Blancs 2011

5.5 years on lees, 11.5 % Abv. Exotic nose of black current pastille, flinty, leafy fruit notes. Quite exotic and nuanced with touches of red orchard fruits and savoury ripe citrus notes. More multi-dimensional with saline black berry fruits, creme de cassis and spearmint leaf. Full, dense and round, beautifully creamy and textural. 

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Blanc de Blancs 2013 (not released yet)

24m on lees in bottle so far, 11-11.5%  Abv. Back to white citrus and yellow orchard fruit complexity. Dusty, limey leesy notes with hints of stem ginger, bruised apple savoury nuances. Already beautifully broad, deep and harmonious with ginger spice, alka seltzer and peppery white citrus focus. Lovely creamy mouse and a salty, tart, briney finish. 

(Wine Safari Score: 90-91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Rose 2011 Sparkling Wine

66% Pinot Noir – 33% Chardonnay, 11% Abv. 7g/l RS, 3.5-4 years on lees. Exotic nose of salty cassis, red orchard fruits, aniseed root, cherry skins and savoury Red Pinot Noir fruit nuances. Honeyed red fruits, savoury, red berries, cranberry, logan berries and yellow plum and licorice. Full and very complex, so textural and creamy. Impressive, stand alone fruit and weight, savoury depth and overall intensity. Beautiful wine with great potential.

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Other Selected Still Wines:

Pinot Noir Rose 2014

Total SO2 40ppm, 10.5% Abv. Dusty savoury minerality. Super crisp, with tart red fruits, cranberry, strawberry complexity. Racy acids and a long mineral, wet chalk finish. 

(Wine Safari Score: 87/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Chardonnay 2014

Natural MLF, 43ppm SO2, 10% Abv. Dusty, white flowers, crisp and crystalline, crunchy yellow peach, wet chalk, waxy yellow summer orchard fruits. Plenty of stuffing, very chablis’esque and mineral laden with a pithy green apple spice finish.

(Wine Safari Score: 88/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Pinot Noir 2014

100% whole bunch in oak for 14 months. 11% Abv. 60ppm SO2. Beautifully savoury, spicy, red fruit spice complexity. Cured meats and musky pink fruits. Palate is packed with heritage plums, fleshy, lush red strawberry confit, sappy, wet chalk and dusty, foresty red fruit intensity. Beautiful complex wine. 

(Wine Safari Score: 90+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Triomphe 2014

9.5% Abv. 8.2 TA. Spicy, rich plummy, bramble fruits. Rich, full mouthfeel, fruit forward with sour cherry. A tart vibrant wine. Plenty of saline sappy spice and an earthy, gun powdery red berry finish. 

(Wine Safari Score: 85/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Prosecco For Connoisseurs ~ Tasting Adriano Adami Garbel Prosecco Brut DOC Treviso…

Prosecco has experienced unprecedented success in the UK market over the past 5 years. Sales just seem to grow and grow and grow. In the past three years alone, this sweet, affable, relatively inexpensive Italian fizz has surpassed Champagne as the UK’s No 1 sparkling wine, and according to retail analysts IRI, the UK market is now worth £365m a year.

Produced in north-east Italy around Treviso, Prosecco has become austerity Britain’s ideal affordable luxury fizz. But unlike Champagne, which undergoes a secondary in-bottle fermentation, giving it a yeasty complexity, Prosecco is fermented in huge tanks, then filtered to produce an easy drinking sparkling wine. 

While supermarket own-brands are significant players in this boom, there are some excellent premium Proseccos out there like Adriano Adami. 
Adami Garbel Prosecco Brut NV, Treviso, Veneto, Presa di Spuma Feb 2017

Garbel means fresh, dry, in the local Treviso dialect. A pale citrus yellow, this is a serious 11 Abv Prosecco made for drinkers looking for precision, purity and complexity in their wines. The nose is super fragrant and pure with crushed gravel, limestone, white citrus, crunchy green apples, pears, and lemon rind complexity. There are no confected notes here, just fine white citrus fruits, white blossom, and a dry, vibrant fresh finish that lingers with great purity and subtlety. A near perfect fruit / acid / minerality balance. 

(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW) 

Catching Up With the Legendary Pieter ‘Bubbles’ Ferreira in London…

It’s been a long week with moderate jeg lag after arriving back from San Francisco last Sunday. By Friday, I felt I was just about back to normal, only waking up at 5am… instead of 3am. But there can certainly be no better pick-me-up than some bubbles, and today I had a lovely visit from Pieter ‘Bubbles’ Ferreira himself, the master of Cape MCC.

As someone who did their MW dissertation on MCC Production in Constantia Valley, I am of course a great lover and eternal ambassador of fine Cape Methode Champenoise sparking wines, or Methode Cap Classique as they are classified in South Africa. And there are no greater names in MCC circles than Bubbles Ferreira, who makes some of the greatest examples of bottle fermented sparkling wine outside of Champagne.

Interesting to hear from Pieter that MCC sales continue to grow around 14% per year for them in SA and I suspect this is probably only slightly higher than the overall category average. For three quarters of the year, South Africa is almost too hot to drink too much red wine, so beer, white wine and of course chilled bubbles are the order of the day. South Africa has developed into a serious producer and quality of MCC across the board is very high on average. Not surprisingly, South Africa is now also the largest market for French Champagne on the African continent.

So it was great to have another look at the famous Graham Beck Cuvee Clive 2009, the most prestigious cuvee in the Graham Beck portfolio and an absolute personification of Pieter’s passion and obsession for creating the perfect sparkling wine. Grab a bottle if you can get your hands on some of the tiny allocation that has made it to the UK for the first time.

Tasting Note: A blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir, both were whole bunch pressed and only the tete de cuvee was used, being mostly fermented in stainless steel but with a small percentage in Piece Champenoise 205 litre oak barrels. The wine is pale straw and wonderfully vibrant and fresh. The nose is rich, subtly savoury and exceptionally complex, showing wonderful opulence and attractive notes of biscuit, dusty limestone, shitake mushrooms, and white truffles. The whole while, the nose and palate are underpinned by vibrant, creamy citrus fruit purity. Lemon and dried herbs, yellow grapefruit and white citrus blossom. The texture is hedonistic and luxurious with a real salty, briney sea breeze character coming through on the long, toasty, nutty finish. Beautiful creamy mousse is perfectly assembled and in fine balance with fresh acids and elegant mineral finesse. A truly world class expression. Bravo Bubbles Ferreira.

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)