All Angels Sparkling Wines

The growth of the English sparkling wine industry over the past 10 years has been significant. Established estates like Nyetimber and Gusbourne continue to increase plantings and production, and overseas producers like Champagne Taittinger and South Africa’s Graham Beck have been investing in English vineyards. But there have been a remarkable number of start-up wine estates too. More than 500 commercial vineyards operate today and the area under vine has increased by 160% in a decade.

all angels winesIn rural Berkshire, one of the newest kids on the block is All Angels, who recently released their first pair of sparkling wines, from the 2014 vintage. The family-run vineyard was planted in 2010, although on land that has been farmed for over 300 years. The wines take their name from the neighbouring ‘St Michael and All Angels’ 12th-century church. Winemaker is Emma Rice, Director and Head Winemaker of the established Hattingley Valley.

Just over three hectares of vines are planted on All Angels’ well-draining south facing slopes consisting of shallow, sandy loam over washed gravel and sand. They also report “a good deposit of flint,” in the subsoil. All three of Champagne’s main grapes have been planted, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, as well as Pinot Gris and Rondo. Rondo is a dark skinned variety that ripens early, which I presume gives some insurance against early frosts or autumn rains in the English climate, and makes up 60% of the blend in the 2014 Rosé cuvée. Grapes are hand-harvested, and each variety is vinified separately in stainless steel tanks, though a small proportion is made in neutral oak barrels.

It’s a small operation with limited distribution for now, but it’s genuinely exciting to taste the first releases from a quality estate.

The Wines

(2019) The blend here is 50% Chardonnay, 28% Pinot Noir, 11% Pinot Meunier and 11% Pinot Gris, with a dosage of 8g/l. Lemony colour, small bubbles, and plenty of yeasty biscuit and nutty notes, a little bit of a ripe peachy character but much more about orchard fruits and lemon zestiness. The palate is well-balanced and has very good fruit. It is essentially fairly straightforward, but that risks damning with faint praise, because the nutty Cox's pippin fruitiness, sheer lemon acidity and fine length and clarity are all very good indeed and it's a pleasure to drink.
(2019) The blend here is 60% of the red-skinned hybrid, Rondo, along with 32% Pinot Gris and 8% Pinot Noir. The wine has a dosage of 9g/l, and pours a medium-pink with good small bubbles. There's an attractive cherry bright and strawberry shortcake aroma, a nice creamy suggestion, then onto the palate a nicely balanced combination of small, dry red berry and orange fruitiness, and a line of citrussy acidity that gives it a fresh and balanced appeal, the dosage swept up by good acidity for a long, quite elegant finish.

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