(2021) From the clay and sandy loam soils of Appledore in Kent, this all-Chardonnay cuvée comes from a very good year, the harvest completed by 7th October. A small percentage of the blend was fermented in older oak barrels, and it spent a full 42 months on the lees prior to disgorgement. The colour is an attractive pale gold, with a foamy mousse and plenty of very small bubbles rising steadily in the glass. There is a touch of buttery pastry, a fine biscuity and oatmeal sheen, and fruit that has a touch of rich figgy quality, but is mostly about fresh citrus and summer pears. In the mouth, despite a modest dosage of 7g/l, there is an abundant sense of sweetness from the ripe fruit. It's a lovely style this, not at all austere, yet precise and super-fresh.
(2021) This Pinot Noir-led blend (57%) has roughly equal parts Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier too, and saw a full 36 months of bottle ageing before disgorgement on 29th January 2020. Light gold, with plenty of effervescence and small bubbles, aromas marry toast, biscuit and a touch of meatiness with vivid lemony fruit. On the palate there's a bracing, sea-spray lick of salty acidity, and though the fruit stays in the citrus spectrum, there's ripeness and creamy texture to keep this enjoyably drinkable.
(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.
(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) 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) Now here's a first for me: a wine from Gateshead in the northeast of England. The story is not quite what it seems, as the fruit was drawn from other areas of England, but it was vinified by Elise Lane at her urban winery in the city. It's also Fortnum's first English still wine. It opens with piercing summer hedgerow notes of elderflower and freshly cut hedging, the fruit is gooseberry and citrus. In the mouth there's a charming, spangle-bright fruity note, but the cool cucumber and minty, very summery character wins out. It is a tiny bit dilute in the finsh, something I often find in English Bacchus, but it is charming and has plenty of personality.
(2021) I came over all Arthurian drinking this, "Made in the Realm of Albion," as it says on the label. Domaine of the Bee teamed up with Ridgeview in Sussex, who made this wine for them, from fruit selected by Justin Howard-Sneyd: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Very fine on the nose, with a suggestion of ripe fruit, but plenty of creamy, bready, autolytic character, Cox's pippin apples and zestiness. In the mouth that nutty, nicely developed apple fruitiness again, a bit of breadth and fruit sweetness to this, before the balanced finish where the acidity runs like rapier cut, but always softened by the fruit and creamy lees ageing into the finish. Club members can buy at £28.00
(2021) Hush Heath's Kent vineyards boast not only the three major Champagne grapes, but three more out of the seven varieties allowed in Champagne. As well as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, Les Sixes includes 13.5% Pinot Blanc, 8.5% Arbane and 3.5% Petite Meslier. A 2014 vintage, it has spent five years on lees. A good crop of small, streaming bubbles in the glass, the nose has Cox's pippin and biscuit on the nose, plenty of creamy autolysis, then a surge of sweet, ripe and mouth-filling fruit on the palate. Theres terrific zing and juiciness here, tangy and sparky lemon zest acidity, but a punchy peach and nectarine on the mid-palate blends into the sharply-def8ned, crisp finish.
(2020) Only the second vintage of this 'Small batch' wine from Hampshire, made by Jacob Leadley, ex winemaker at Hattingly Valley from the Champagne grape triumverate of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. This is a serious contender for joining the top echelons of English sparkling wine. Opening with a vivacious citrus blast of keen, clean fruit, there are plenty of autolytic notes of biscuit and freshly picked mushrooms, a refined and lightly earthy - and very Champagne-like - character. In the mouth there is fantastic fruit sweetness and generosity, with 8g/l of residual sugar and 20 months on the lees, but it is dry, the lemony, zesty clarity of the finish flashing through a sweet and ripe mid-palate with terrific style, the finish long and fine. A hugely enjoyable first taste of this producer for me. Available from 9th October 2020.
(2020) Henners was founded in East Sussex in 2007, but has since been bought by its distributor, Boutinot. The young winemaker here has worked in California and South Africa, and makes this wine with a proportion of the base wine (10%) fermented in aged oak barrels. The dosage is a moderate 7g/l. Lovely yeastiness and sweet, ripe fruit in combination. There's a lot of finesse here, the colour pale and straw-gold with aromas the blend light biscuity qualities with succulent orchard fruit.