(2023) At English wine producer Exton Park in Hampshire, winemaker Corinne Seely and viticulturist Fred Langdale make a formidable team. From an outstanding vintage where a mild spring and long Indian summer meant excellent ripeness, especially for the Chardonnay crop, this is a selection of fruit from just 20 rows of 20-year-old vines. Made in stainless steel with no oak, the wine spent a full six years on the lees, disgorged in 2021 with 10g/l residual sugar. It spent a further two years in bottle post-disgorgement, and was released in July 2023. Terrific nose, a sour, lactic note moving through to gentle toast. There fruit too, hinting at peach and even mango, citrus like kumquat, and a touch of spiciness. The mousse is fine, and in the mouth the rush of vibrant, acid etched fruit spans crunchy apple to peach. The acid sizzles across the finish, giving this real zest and lemony bite into a long layered finish. Upper echelons of all English sparkling wine.
(2022) With three years on the lees, 25% of the wines in this blend were aged in used oak barrels from Bordeaux and Burgundy, and 30% underwent malolactic fermentation. It has a dosage of 9g/l and is 100% Chardonnay from Exton Park's Hampshire vineyard. Very pale straw-lemon in colour, there's lots of biscuit and sourdough breadiness on the nose, some lemon meringue pie creamy citrus and something quite stony and Chablis-like too. In the mouth the mousse is fresh and very lively, the thrust of the wine all about citrus and cut apple bite, a very decisive style this, again those stones and mineral salts linger on the lips. Very stylish, pin-sharp, a linear and mouth-watering style. Corinne Seely suggests it will be worth cellaring for a couple of years and I'd agree: it already beginning to open and soften a little in the glass.
(2017) A wine I have followed for some time, this is a blend of 40% mature Chardonnay from the oldest vineyards with 60% Pinot Noir, all planted on the chalk soils of the South Downs. The mousse is creamy and fine and there is still that touch of pastry and biscuit to the sheer lemony fruit character on the nose, opening onto a palate that has added an extra degree of intensity since my last tasting it seems. The sumptuous character of the fruit and a modest 7g/l of dosage just blurs the steely edges rather nicely. Long and with a lick of salty minerality in the finish, it really is very fine indeed. Distribution for this wine is now very good - use the wine-searcher link - and half bottles at around £17.50 and magnums at around £60 are also available.
(2016) The Hampshire vineyards of Exton Park are beautiful and are producing some exceptional sparkling wines, as I reported in 2015. Now it's a delight to see they have released their wines in half bottles, always such a handy size to have around. This is the Brut, a blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, that in half bottle has wonderfully easy and sweet fruit, a touch of brioche and toast, and a glittering finish.
(2016) An unusual rosé sparkling wine, made from 100% Hampshire-grown Pinot Meunier, which winemaker Corinne Seely concluded was good enough and mature enough for this bottling as the vineyard passed its first decade since being planted. Though it comes from a single year (2014) it is being sold without a vintage date. It's a subtle and very refined style this - not the place to come if you are seeking a strawberry-scented, softened style of pink fizz, for this is bone-dry and taut, small redcurrant and apple fruit notes, bags of acidity and a clean, linear palate showing a crisp, racy mousse. Not showy, but very good.