MONTHLY DIGEST: English Wines #9
Updated: Nov 5, 2019
At the beginning of September I attended the WineGB tasting - the largest annual trade tasting of wines from England and Wales. Over 50 producers exhibited and it was a great opportunity for me to discover new producers and wines and catch up with those I already know. I'm really interested and excited by the developments in our wine industry. In 2018, 15.6 million bottles of wine were produced which was up from 5.9 million bottles in 2017. Hectares planted has quadrupled since 2000 and there are now over 150 vineyards open to the public. This summer I've visited several wineries: Hambledon, Greyfrairs, Bolney, Nutbourne and Blackbook as well as two great Nyetimber pop-ups at Selfridges and the Rosewood Holborn.
DISCOVER 3 WINES
I've tried lots of fantastic English sparkling wines this year, so it seemed an almost impossible task to include only one recommendation this month! However, I was particularly blown away by the 2011 Wiston Estate Blanc de Blancs I discovered at WineGB - one to stock up on for Christmas! While sparkling wine accounts for 69% of British annual production, almost a third of wines produced are still wines, so this month I've also included an English white wine and a delicious fortified wine I discovered earlier this summer.
The French term 'Blanc de Blancs' means 'White of Whites' which refers to sparkling wines that are made wholly from white grapes (in this case, Chardonnay). This is a concentrated, rich and intense sparkling wine with notes of apricot, brioche, honey and ginger. A sparkling wine that can be enjoyed as an aperitif with canapés but also a gastronomic wine that will pair with richer, creamier dishes like lobster, truffle risotto and aged Comté cheese.
Pinot Grigio but not as you know it! Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are the same grape, but the quick explanation is that the names denote two very different styles: Pinot Gris from Alsace is often much richer and intense, whereas the Italian Pinot Grigio tends to be lighter and simpler. This Pinot Gris is packed with notes of ripe pear, red apple with a hint of honey and pineapple. Pair with dishes with a bit of spice like a yellow curry or a pad thai.
Something a bit different for you! Not only do Bolney produce excellent still and sparkling wines, but they are also the first English winery making a Rosso Vermouth. This is a fortified wine flavoured with lots of different botanicals. I've tried it with elderflower tonic, with a wedge of orange and a sprig of thyme. Slightly sweet, with subtle bitterness and herbal notes. Really refreshing and really delicious - a great autumnal drink.
LONDON URBAN WINERY
Blackbook Winery is an urban winery situated in a railway arch in Queenstown Road, Battersea. A fantastic way to experience and learn about the English wine movement without leaving Zone 2 London! Sergio and Lynsey Verillo are the winemakers behind this project. Blackbook Winery produces single vineyard wines from a handful of growers in Essex, East Anglia, Oxfordshire and Kent. Once the grapes are picked, they are delivered to the urban winery in Battersea, where the winemaking takes place. Blackbook focus on producing wine from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes and the bottles feature amazing artwork designed by London art school alumni. Blackbook run tours most Saturdays for £15pp - learn about this project and sip wine at this very cool urban winery with their charming winemaker Sergio.
RABBIT RESTAURANT & NUTBOURNE VINEYARDS
My dining highlight of the month was a 4-hour feast at Rabbit Restaurant with a group of close friends. This Chelsea-based restaurant has received much acclaim for its 'local and wild' concept (read more) since it opened in 2014. Rabbit, along with The Shed in Notting Hill and Nutbourne in Battersea, make up the group of restaurants owned by the Gladwin Brothers. We treated ourselves to the 7-course tasting menu - excellent value at £42pp - which allowed us to try an array of Rabbit's best dishes. Particular highlights (pictured above) were:
*Rabbit mouthfuls: mushroom marmite éclair, confit egg yolk, cornichon - oak smoked cod’s roe, crisp bread, pickle gel - breakfast radish, burnt butter emulsion; * Hand dived single scallop, pea puree, keta caviar, scallop roe powder; and * Sussex beef, cavalo puree, braised fennel, veal wine jus.
We paired the tasting menu with a couple of bottles of the restaurant's own wines - Nutbourne Vineyard, which prompted a vineyard trip to visit this family-run boutique producer last weekend. Rabbit Restaurant 72 King's Road, Chelsea SW3 4UP Nutbourne Vineyard Gay Street, Pulborough, RH20 2HH (tours by appointment)
The beautiful scenery at Nutbourne Vineyard. The old windmill has been converted into a tasting room and a shop. The pavilion in the right of the photo hosts dinners, pop-ups and parties.
After a fantastic tour through the Nutbourne vineyards, we had a tasting of the whole range of Nutbourne wines. I'd summarise the wines as very pure and characterful in style. We purchased five wines: Sparkling Nutty Brut 2015 (blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, aged on lees for 3 years), Sparkling Nutty Wild NV (Pinot Noir, low alcohol), Magnum of Sussex Reserve 2017 (blend of Bacchus, Reichensteiner and Pinot Noir) Hedgerow 2016 (off-dry, blend of Bacchus and Huxelrebe grapes) and the Chardonnay 2014 (unoaked). Delicious! To find out more about Nutbourne click here.