Langham Estate of Dorset

There are still doubters: those who think English sparkling wines wear the Emporer’s new clothes. That’s despite the well-established track record of a serious wine industry that began in the 1980s, and the wines earning praise from international critcs, including here on wine-pages. My recent tasting of three wines from Dorset estate, Langham, has further cemented the reputation of England’s bottle-fermented sparkling wines.

The Langham Estate and it’s manor house were acquired by John Langham in 1980, as the centre point for 1,000 hectares of farming business.  The vineyard was originally a very small part of the enterprise, but in 2009 John’s son, Justin Langham, developed the vineyard as a commercial venture, planting an additional 30 acres. South-facing on chalk soils, the vineyard is planted to the classic Champagne varieties, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, and Langham say they are “constantly working towards reducing chemical intervention,” with many manual processes and employing biological solutions to ward against disease and other vineyard pressures.

The on-site winery is equipped with temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks and used French oak barriques, with most cuvées seeing some fermentation in barrel with natural yeasts. Wines are neither fined nor filtered, and minimal SO2 is added in a non-interventionist operation. Wines typically age for 18 months on the lees before disgorgement, and across the three wines tasted here, dosage is low: only around 2g/l for the Corralian and Culver bottlings, and 4g/l for the rosé. That gives these wines real drive, nervosity and freshness, yet the ripe fruit and long ageing also gives some weight, texture and fruit concentration meaning they are not at all aggressive. For  me, each is a top example of English Sparkling wine with character and pleasure to spare.

Another factor that may convince you to try these wines if my descriptions appeal, is their moderate pricing: each of the cuvées sells for around £27.50 per bottle.

The Wines

(2021) There is 6% of reserve wines in this blend of 66% Pinot Noir, 24% Pinot Meunier and 10% Chardonnay, on a base of the 2017 vintage. Partial barrel fermentation was followed by 18 months on the lees, a dosage of 2.5g/l and a further six months ageing post-disgorgement. Despite the energising blast of the salts and citrus here with its low dosage, there is a generosity and golden glow to the wine, ripeness and some toast and creamy almond, full texture and excellent length. A more open and slightly less rigorous wine than the Corallian, but still absolutely pin-sharp and decisive.
(2021) The blend here is 62% Chardonnay, 29% Pinot Noir and 9% Pinot Meunier, the base vintage 2017. This cuvee contains 10% reserve wines and has only 2g/l dosage and was disgorged in December 2020. It's a fabulously incisive, dry and mouth-wateringly saline English sparkling wine, utterly energising though with a depth and richness of baked apple and hazelnut, then the palate bursting through with thrusting, ripe and fat lemon fruit and that salty, seaside freshness and gastronomic, tingling length powering through. I really enjoyed this wine.
(2021) A blend of 54% Pinot Noir, 23% Pinot Meunier and 23% Chardonnay, there is only 4g/l of residual sugar in this incisive and dry English sparkling rosé. It's part barrel-fermented and is an 'assemblage', with a small percentage of still Pinot Noir added to the blend before secondary fermentation. After 24 months on the lees, the mousse is strong, and the nose has a real mineral, smoky, taut and small red berry-fruited appeal, a herbal streak only adds to the freshness. In the mouth that dry, mineral and flinty character continues, yes there is red fruit of raspberry and bitter lemon, good length and that racy, very grown-up acid character.

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