Is Chapel Down becoming the frontrunner for the English wine industry…?. English wine is set to be as big as Oregon now; in 2040!

 

If you are ever lucky enough to drive down the motorway in the garden of England and turn off one of many roads then I’m sure you’ll experience quaint little England. Nice neat houses, quiet country lanes and maybe even a fabled sloe gin hedge! But one such village, Tenterden, is witnessing a revolution. Here lies Chapel Down.th

Ever since the popularity of English wine Chapel Down has been at the forefront of consumers minds for its approachable price and pleasant characteristics. This mini industry from the 388 Acres is operated from 4 vineyards. Kits Coty vineyard, Court Lodge Farm, Street Farm and a newly acquired parcel of land near Boxley.

 

 

Having visited the estate this month I was impressed by the operations, by the enthusiasm of the staff and by the range of wines. Far to short an article to list them all here!

Two things that are evident in the industry today is firstly all producers do not lay their wines down for investment and as a result omit a vintage ratings system. Secondly due to the nature of youthful wines and the lack of oak the wines are intentially made to be drunk young.

So for the majority of still and sparkling wines they are void of oak. Very few will venture into Grand Cru Chablis characteristics. It’s almost a cartel of an Anti –Oak movement. It’s a brave producer that goes alone in this embryonic industry. On the flip side drink them young and you sell more and you avoid storage costs on older wines. Costs are also recouped quicker. Forward thinking for an industry on the up. So not only does Chapel Down have prime vineyards in the heart of the garden of England (Kent) but it also produces a world-class range of sparkling and still wines, together with the award-winning range of Curious beers & cider.

Trade body Wine GB has said that it believes the UK industry, which includes vineyards across England and Wales, could be producing 40 million bottles of sparkling wine per year by 2040.How could you disbelieve them. 2018’s bottle production was 15.6 million bottles produced up from 5.9 million in 2017. Quite remarkable!

Because of their brand they supply Gordon Ramsay, The Royal Opera House, The London Symphony Orchestra, No 10 Downing Street and are the official sparkling wine of the Oxford & Cambridge Boat Races ….but all this talk of British wines! Why do we like it so much and why is it so popular? Look at the White Cliffs of Dover and you see chalky soils. Perfect climatic conditions with perfect soils. This combination allows vineyards to produce world-class sparkling wines and dry aromatic still white wines. Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Bacchus all thrive on the South Coast

Chief grape varieties at Chapel down

  • Chardonnay:Grown largely for sparkling wines.
  • Pinot Noir: The variety thrives in cool climates (UK) & produces delicate thin-skinned grapes with low tannins & an abundance of red fruit
  • Bacchus:England’s answer to Sauvignon Blanc. Sometimes shows punchy tropical fruit to more restrained citrus and gooseberry.

Chapel Down has its own premium of wines range :

Kit’s Coty.

 

 

The Kit’s Coty vineyard has a lime-rich chalk soil and a unique microclimate on the North Downs. It is named after the monuments to the first settlers of Britain’s earliest farming society who recognised the fertility of the land in the third millennium BC. The expansive southerly aspect ensures the vines capture the sunshine all year long while free-draining chalk soils provide the perfect condition for producing well-balanced vines and intensely flavoured fruit. 3 notable examples include:

KIT’S COTY COEUR DE CUVÉE 2013. First British wine over £100.00 per bottle.

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KIT’S COTY BLANC DE BLANCS 2014 Chardonnay 40.00 per bottle.

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KIT’S COTY CHARDONNAY 2016 Wild-ferment Chardonnay, which has been matured in old French oak for nine months. £30.00 per bottle.

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3 grape varieties tried and tested and worth recommending.

ROSE BRUT

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GRAPE VARIETY 100% Pinot Noir

TASTING NOTES: Fresh strawberries, cherries and redcurrants with background notes of toasty shortbread. The palate is crisp and fresh, its fine mousse contributing to the light and effortless style.

SERVING SUGGESTION : Great as an aperitif or for pairing with light pasta dishes and summer fruit desserts.

 KITS COTY BACCUS 2017

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GRAPE VARIETY: 100% Bacchus

TASTING NOTES: This very ripe style of Bacchus has guava, melon and peach aromas with background oak influence. The palate is pure and focused with more tropical flavours and an exceptional length.

SERVING SUGGESTION: An ideal pairing to white crab meat salad, asparagus risotto and lightly smoked fish.

 

CHAPEL DOWN TENTERDEN ESTATE BACCHUS 2018

GRAPE VARIETY: 100% Bacchus

VINEYARDS : Fruit is sourced exclusively from the Tenterden vineyard, which is home to the oldest Bacchus vines producing the lowest yields but finest fruit.

TASTING NOTES: Aromas of lime zest and elderflower followed by a refreshing palate of juicy citrus fruit and a pure mineral finish.

SERVING SUGGESTION : A great match with Pork Belly or pair with a wide variety of seafood dishes. An ideal alternative to New World Sauvignon Blanc.

 

Music Pairing

Sometimes its not just the words that matter its the vibrancy and energy that is displayed. Still as fresh as it was all those years ago….. See where I’m going with this !

(and these two need no introduction!)

 

 

Always remember you can email me at jason@thegrapewizard.com or sign up to my website following the links on my homepage

GW

Brexit – Another day, another €. Where have we all gone wrong !

Brexit – It doesn’t have to be all bad news

So as I write this, in the month the UK leaves the European Union, negotiations are still on-going and it remains unclear what the exact impacts of Brexit might be on the wine industry. 

As a major importer, the UK market is one of the most important global wine markets.  The UK accounts for nearly 15% of the world’s wine imports. The drop in consumption assumed in the most severe Brexit scenario would have a ripple effect, depressing the value of the global wine trade by 3.5%. 

No wonder then wine producers and retailers alike are preparing for the worst and taking measures should a no-deal Brexit come to pass.  Producers across Europe are rushing to bottle early and as you would imagine UK retailers are being prudent and stockpiling.

The most noticeable impact of Brexit is the rising prices of bottles imported into the UK. The price of a bottle of wine has already risen by almost 30p since the Referendum in June 2016 and this is only set to continue.  This is bad news for British wine lovers.

Non-EU importers

Both the US and Chile have signed trade continuity deals with the UK to ensure there is no disruption to wine trade after March 29th. These countries have very similar deals with the EU currently so the status quo should stay the same no matter what

The UK is the fourth largest market for US wine exports, and around 9% of UK still wine sales in 2018 were Chilean bottles, so it was imperative that these trade relationships were maintained.

No-deal Brexit

Currently there are no tariffs on wines imported from the EU.  The UK is the second largest importer of French wines and spirits, behind the United States, having imported 1.3 billion Euros of alcohol from France in 2018.

A no-deal Brexit for the UK could disrupt EU wine imports through long border delays, import taxes, decreased British demand and increased competition from non-EU markets. 

Things will also become difficult as the paperless electronic system used at present will expire if we are not in Europe – without this system in place, businesses would be forced to rely on pen and paper until a new system is in place

Some EU suppliers are already vulnerable to a decline in trade, due to poor weather conditions, so to have barriers put up could pile on the pressure among some European growers.

In addition, every single bottle of wine destined for the UK from the EU ‘could’ be faced with paying to get a laboratory technical analysis of the wine to comply with new regulations. It effectively means all wine from the EU will be faced with the same restrictions that the EU currently places on all wine entering the EU from outside countries.

Another headache for EU producers is the risk the UK will negotiate more favourable trade agreements with other wine-producing nations, such as Australia, South Africa, Chile and Argentina, at the expense of European exporters. 

Ultimately EU wine businesses will face costs which UK consumers will be passed on to UK customers to pay.

Good news for English wine?

So is there is a silver lining in all this for UK winemakers?

The industry is small but growing, with more than 500 vineyards and about 130 wineries in England and Wales, many of which specialize in sparkling wine. 

UK supermarkets will only be able to absorb the higher costs of imported wine for so long. This will give locally produced wines an advantage, since retailers won’t be forced to hike prices because of the exchange rate or tariffs.

As a result, British wines will seem relatively less expensive, encouraging people to switch over. So little of the wine Brits drink comes from the UK because of small-scale production and a focus on sparkling wine make it a pricier alternative to imported bottles.  There is an opportunity here for the UK government to encourage this further by, as many are suggesting, cutting the cost of domestic duty for UK produced wine post-Brexit.

So whatever the outcome  – Brexit or no Brexit  – I for one will be continuing my journey of discovery around the UK.  And not because it may be relatively cheaper but because it is becoming so much better. 

Here are my top 3 tips for a post-Brexit toast.  Assuming we will still have something to celebrate!

2013 Hattingley Valley ,Blanc de Blancs – Pale golden colour with gentle green hues and delicate bubbles, this Blanc de Blancs displays beautifully the pure linear character of the Chardonnay – white stone fruit, citrus fruit and a delicious honeyed character on the nose; clean and mineral flavours with pastry and brioche notes on the palate. It has a well balanced and refreshing acidity that gives way to a creamy mouthfeel and long, complex finish.

2013 The Mount Vineyard, White pinot  – This unoaked white pinot is pale gold in colour and made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes. It has fruity flavours of grapefruit, melon and green apples with an aroma of spicy almonds, mouth-watering citrus acidity and a long finish.

2014 Camel Valley Brut  – Young and lively, with a floral, sweet-hay scent, drier palate with a creamy finish. This wine is excellent to drink young, or can be cellared to allow the structure and more mature characteristics to evolve