(2021) There are two main methods for producing pink sparkling wines, by blending red and white base wines together, or the one used here: saignée, where the colour comes from a short period of skin contact, colour leaching from the skins of black grapes. This is made from Pinots Noir and Meunier, and the skin contact also gives an unusual herbal, twiggy aspect to the aroma, as well as strawberry, sherbetty red fruit and floral notes. In the mouth I find a touch of green bitterness, which although there is plenty of creamy red fruit and fine acidity, just detracts a little.
(2020) Many of us will remember the 'Beaujolais Nouveau Run', the mad dash to have the first bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau, always released on the third Thursday of November, back in the UK and on dining tables the same day. Now England's Hush Heath has taken on the French at their own game, releasing their Pinot Nouveau on the same day - remarkably enough, a wine harvested less than two months ago on September 23rd, and which saw a brief stopover in French and American oak barrels. It is vibrantly purple in colour, with loads of toast and smokiness, then the palate has really bouyant black fruit - tannins are smoothed into transparency, and there is a hint of cherry sweetness, but the finish is dry with the oak adding some more of that toasty, coffeeish richness. The acid balances in a wine that is good fun, but more than that, a fascinating and youthful interpretation of easy-drinking Pinot.
(2020) Gusbourne is a trailblazer of the English wine scene, and seemingly endlessly inventive, with a clutch of one-off and new releases each year, both still and sparkling. The newest edition to the sparkling line-up, this is Pinot Noir from the 2016 vintage, sourced from Gusbourne's vineyards in Kent and West Sussex, and with 50% of the fruit 'dropped' - removed from the vine - during the growing season in order to strengthen and intensify the fruit that remained. A small percentage of the blend was fermented in oak barrels and the wine is Brut, with 7.5g/l residual sugar. Pale gold to straw in colour with plenty of miniscule bubbles, aromas are fresh and appetising, some hazelnut and almond, creamy and ripe orchard fruits, a hint of hawthorn. On the palate there's a juicy generosity to the fruit which is ripe, sweet and mouth-filling, verging on the peachy, but then the fine core of dazzling lemony acidity pushes through, a chalky element too, driving into a long finish. A superb English sparkling wine.
(2019) The 'Classic Ferment' differentitates this from an amphora-made Ortega, this made in a combination of stainless steel tanks and older oak barrels. It's pretty much dry take on Ortega, a German crossing of Müller-Thurgau and Siegerrebe that is often used to make sweet wines. There is some sweetness here, but offset by a considerable spine of pithy lemon and grapefruit, though the aromatics to flit nicely around tropical peach and nectarine, before that sour lemon tang of the finish.
(2019) This non-vintage blend of the three traditional Champagne varieties (45% Pinot Noir, 45% Pinot Meunier, 10% Chardonnay) contains 20% reserve wines and is aged for a minimum of 18 months before disgorgement It is a lovely wine, with the abundant fruity charms of the Meunier giving it great likeability. There is a lovely doughy autolysis, yeasty and inviting, but it is a bright orange and lime fruitiness and acidity that drives the palate. There is plenty of refreshing, zippy acidity, but it that slightly riper, more exotic citrus rather than lemons, which adds to the all-round charm and appeal.
(2019) Selected parcels of Ortega were harvested late to give 150g/l residual sugar, and treated like an ice-wine with the must chilled to -8ºC before pressing and fermentation and ageing in barrel for 6 months. This has no botrytis, but instead a bright orange and lemon sherbet nose, immediately reminiscent of a Canadian icewine, but less rich and unctuous. That freshness and zip counterbalances the sugar very nicely in the mouth, with pear juice and peach flavours, a touch of honey, and a cleansing lemon zest acidity. For lighter desserts, and though rather expensive for the half-bottle, a lovely wine.
(2018) This is close to equal proportions of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, with 50% of the Chardonnay fermented in older Burgundian barrels followed by 20 months ageing in temperature-controlled cellars prior to disgorgement. The bubbles are small and persistent, the nose racy and refined, with a little biscuity richness over crisp lemony fruit. The richness becomes more evident on the nose, yeasty and quite complex. In the mouth there's a fat lemony fruitiness that is both keen and taut, and quite mouth-filling, a fine mousse and plenty of fruit at the core of this. Balanced and long, a dry, chalky sense of minerality emerges, and a low dosage here I think, keeping this ultra crisp in the finish.
(2018) Only the second ever release of Chapel Down's top single vineyard Chardonnay. It's harvested by hand, whole bunch pressed, and fermented with wild yeasts in French oak barrels where it spent nine months on the lees. It has lovely clarity, a sheen of almond and nougat over not too ripe orchard fruit, and is immediately elegant. In the mouth it has very good concentration, good ripeness, an enjoyable tension between sweet peachy fruit and a tangy, orange and lemon acidity. Medium-bodied and staying nicely balanced, it's a keen, lithe Chardonnay of great style, the finished just rounded out with subtle oak notes. Burgundian? That's certainly a fair ballpark in which to place this.
(2018) From the 'heart' of the blend, this is both a vineyard selection and a juice selection, made from the best Chardonnay blocks and only the first 'cut' of the finest juice from the pressing. Fermented in oak barrels with wild yeasts, it has a moderately low dosage of 6g/l. It's such a different beast from the regular Blanc de Blancs, leesy, earthy and 'dirtier' on the nose, which is part of the wild and barrel-ferment character, and makes up in complexity for what it lacks in the BdB's pristine clarity. The palate has that chewy complexity too, mouth-filling and serious, the choice here is not only about price, it's very much about style.
(2018) This sparkling apple wine is made from fruit grown in Hush Heath's Kent orchards (Cox, Bramley and Egremont Russet), with secondary fermentation in bottle just like their other sparkling wines, and using Champagne yeast. It has an elegant cider apple nose, lightly nutty and with a rosy, ripe apple skin fruitiness. In the mouth there's an echo of sweetness just to offset the bracing acidity, and the apple flavours push through cleanly and brightly. Most enjoyable for a change.