English wine. English wine week. Do they make enough wine to support English wine week? Well, yeah, they do. There are over 250 vineyards in the British Isles and loads of them are winning awards and making fantastic wines. I’ve become a big fan lately, not only because I’m living here but also because I think that they’re producing some fantastic stuff. I have to say that the sparkling wines are the ones that are winning the awards but they’re getting better and better at making those whites and even, dare I say, reds!
Last weekend, Andrew from Spittoon invited a bunch of us food and wine bloggers up to Wallingford, Oxfordshire to visit Brightwell Vineyards and have a taste or two of quality English wine. So one EARLY Saturday morning, I met up with eatlikeagirl, foodstories, pencilandspoon (Mark, a beer blogger) and cooksister to brave the wilds of the English countryside.
(A slideshow of my trip to the English countryside and vineyards)
Our first stop was Brightwell Vineyards which has been around for about 20 years and they have a quite an extensive collection of varietals but most are experimental. They focus mainly on bacchus, ortega, reichensteiner, and dornfelder with pinot noir being planted next year. They are unusual in that they focus on still wines as opposed to sparkling which most English producers seem to gravitate to. Brightwell is not only situated next to the Thames but has a lovely duck pond with lots of wild birdies, horses, the friendliest dobermans I’ve ever met (the dogs would probably show you where the safe is), and pigs! Athough the wine pigs, as we nicknamed them, will be moving next year to make way for rows of pinot noir.
The big hit of the tasting had to be the Oxford 2006 Regatta red, a complex spicy, woody, red wine. Pepper, graphite, ripe red fruits, raspberry, all those decriptors were being thrown about with abandon by the bloggers. I had to agree and it also had a lovely silky weight to it. Carol, the proprietor put that down to not only 3 years of bottle aging but also the 4 months it spent in oak.
Afterwards we trekked thru cow pastures to get to Andrew’s house for another round of tasting. Here’s a brief description of the wines and my notes:
Sedlescombe Vineyard, Sedlescombe, East Sussex a blend of Ortega, Faber, Bacchus, Huxelrebe and Siegerebe. £8.19 – dry, organic, vegan(!) wine, not much going on either on the nose or palate, probably my least favorite of the day.
Horsmonden Vineyard Dry White, Kent vinified at Limney Estate, Rotherfield, East Sussex 2006 A blend of Ortega, Faber, Bacchus, Huxelrebe and Siegerebe £8.69 – I went out to the vineyard in March with Katherine of Artisan & Vine so I knew this one already but it still threw me for a curve, whereas before it was peachy and white fruits, now it was all guava and ripe passionfruit, still had a lovely dry finish.
Horsmonden Vineyard Sparkling 2005, Limney Farm, Rotherfield, E. Sussex Pinot Noir and Auxerois blend (great value) at £15.69 – another one I’ve had, this one to me is classic champagne nose(even if it is technically a sparkling) bready, yeasty, coconut notes wafting upwards. And crisp, dry and nutty. I do like this one.
Brightwell Sparkling Chardonnay 2005 Bottle fermented (champagne method) £17 – prosecco like bubbles, i.e. BIG, an enjoyable quaffer, could see it being a nice little aperitif, goes down easy.
Hush Heath Balfour Brut Rosé £34.99 – one of my favourite rosés, so lovely and delicate. I was surprised to find that the crisp strawberries and raspberries that I usually associate with this wine were being a bit shy that day but this is still a well made, well balanced sparkler with tiny bubbles, just the way I like’em.
So there you have it. English wine-yes, please! And what a lovely day it was to get out of the Big Smoke and breathe some fresh air. Someone twittered (#aeww on twitter) that I was hugging a bottle of wine but really it had just fallen against me!