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.
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 :
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.
KIT’S COTY BLANC DE BLANCS 2014 Chardonnay 40.00 per bottle.
KIT’S COTY CHARDONNAY 2016 Wild-ferment Chardonnay, which has been matured in old French oak for nine months. £30.00 per bottle.
3 grape varieties tried and tested and worth recommending.
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
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.
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 !
Last month I got the chance to go to a vertical tasting (Upright bottles in a line!) at a fabulous members club in Pall Mall.
For those that don’t live in London. There is a street in London filled with members clubs – traditionallygentleman’sclubs. Some have been around for 200 years. Some as late as a few years ago- such as 67 Pall mall.
67 Pall Mall – in the heart of London !
Lutyens-Room – one of the many fabulous meeting rooms
Lovely wine fridges !
67 Pall Mall has now become firmly established as a wine only members club and is revered as such. It is not a stuffy club – nor sometimes dated like so many clubs “on the strip “. So when I got the chance to go – I naturally accepted.
If your ever in a room and feel your privileged to be there (and that happens very rarely for me in this industry). Then this was the time.Expecting a meeting room filled with plastic chairs, a few bottles on the side and maybe some out-of-date biscuits to dry the mouth – this was what I was expecting. This was not the case
“67” is a Georgian end of terraced town house(see above) and inside is a rabbit warren of corridors and secret doors. The basement reveals itself to to be a very grand affair.
Hubert Bouard (pictured centre )
Place sat for 20 people and a 2 courselunch. (notice Stephen Spurrier and Hubert Bouard )
This was serious ! MW’s littered the table, 2 producers and Steven Spurrier as well as a host of CEO’s and other people of influence. 8 years ago I never thought Iwould be in a select group of people tasting the finer characteristics of one of St Emillion’s top producer. I guess the boy had come a long way! I am still in the industry that i love and I’m still writing for a magazine . So this experience I was always going to be thankful for. 18 glasses in from of me this was going to be tough!
The tasting was organised by Hubert Bouard (pictured below)
and Klein Constantia ( of which he part owns and is in collaboration with KK) hence both of them were here. Half of the 18 glasses of wine were Klein Constantia’s the others were Hubert’s. On this day he was also highlighting his affordable range of £15-30 wines as well as Ch. Angelus.(see below)
The many faces of Hubert Bouard !
Huberts new range of wines (below) and Ch Angelus
This 2017 Chardonnay has tropical fruits, pineapples and nectarines and a touch of baking bread and ginger on the nose and palate. Good finish on the palate. Around £28 Drink till 2020
2017 Cabernet Sauvignon notes of cassis, black plums and forest floor fruits , some savoury notes. Soft smooth tannins with a finish that resembles some sort of menthol. Drink till 2025
2017 Cabernet Franc shows potpourri together with red fruit, red currants, raspberries and the fabled pencil shavings of Bordeaux. As with Cabernet Franc i always refer to this humble varietal as the “smelly grape” and thus shows a gentle fragrance. Drink till 2025
2017 Merlot red and black plums the nose , savoury and forest floor fruits on the palate together with cigar box. Drink till 2025
1989 Ch. Angelus – Dark purple colour. Blueberry and Blackberry on the nose with hints of black olives, liquorice and cedar wood on the palate. Also shows Coffee beans and enticing chocolate characteristics. Drink till 2028
Ch. Angelus and the Classification system.
If you ever need to understand the importance of Ch. Angelus in the Bordeaux empire just look at the 1855 classification
Bordeaux introduced the classification in 1855 under Napoleon III, and it now serves as a measure of quality and prestige worldwide. Its aim was to highlight the soil’s typical characteristics. Some wines not included in the classification are sometimes more highly regarded than those in the classifications eg Petrus
There are several classifications in Gironde (Bordeaux) , listed in order of seniority:
If you want to read more about the subject of each classification, please click on one of the 5 links immediately below
The governing body (INAO) must revise the classification every ten years.
All of them contain varying degrees of producers. Some small. Some global. But one thing you should consider is that being in one group is not a disadvantage of not being in another. There are tables that showcase the best. But if you are looking for something that is not extortionate then there is a classification for you.
St Emillion differs from the rest as it has 3 categories – class A, class B (top tier and second tier) and thenthe rest of the producers. Currently Class A has 4 producers Class B has 14 producers. Then 63in the rest of the 3rd category.
Assessment : 63 Producers-good producers. Class B Very good producers.Class A – exceptional producers
For this reason, as you can understand, it was a good and rare experience to accept the invitation to the tasting.
Château Angelus, until 1990 was known asChâteau L’angelus, or simplyL’angelus, is aBordeaux winefrom theappellationSaint-Émilion, since 2012 rankedPremier grand cru classé (A)in theClassification of Saint-Émilion wine. Thewineryis located on the Right Bank of theBordeaux wine region, in the commune of Saint-Émilion in the departmentGironde. (see map on right)
Key historic points of Ch. Angelus
The estate has been owned by the Boüard de Laforest family since 1909.
The name refers to the threeAngelus bellsaudible from the chapel at Mazerat, the church in Saint-Martin de Mazeret and Saint-Émilion.
Hubert de Boüard de Laforest joined the family business at Angelus in 1976
The estate has been classified as a Premier grand cru cru classé (A) since 2012.
The estate consists of 23.4 hectares (23 Twickenham rugby pitches)
The annual production averages 10,000 cases of the Grand vin and 1,000 cases of the second wine.
In the last thirty years, Hubert de Boüard de Laforest has constantly challenged practices and techniques for the benefit of his land and the unique characteristics of the wines grown on it, enabling Château Angelus to be recognised as one of the foremost properties in its appellation area. This recognition has been documented in one classification after another, the last of which awarded Château Angelus the status of Premier Grand Cru Classé “A”. (See above)
From the very beginning, the Château Angelus wine label has always featured a bell on a light background as a reminder of the devotion of the same name. Over the years the bell has become the emblem of the property and has been depicted in many different styles
3 wines of Ch. Angelus
Carillon d’Angélus was first released in the 1987 vintage. Over the years it has acquired its very own identity. The wine is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon selected from different Saint-Emillion terroirs. The vinification and ageing techniques are adapted with precision to its particular style. It is highly appreciated for the purity of its fruit aromas, its velvety tannins and elegant finish.
Expect to pay £75-85 per bottle ($110-130)
When the Château Angelus philosophy of excellence is applied to a selection of different Saint-Emillion terroirs, No. 3 d’Angélus results. Blended with 85 to 90% Merlot, this wine is made for instant enjoyment as soon as it is delivered from the winery. It is a refined version of its illustrious parents, which provides enjoyment while waiting the necessary years for the First Wine and Carillon d’Angélus to reach their full maturities. The vines used to grow No. 3 d’Angélus are cultivated with the same care as those used to make its elders and their fruit is vinified with the same precision. The yields are larger and the wine is aged for a shorter period with no recourse to new wood: only one- or two-year-old barrels are used. No. 3 d’Angélus is an easy-going, attractive wine, which gives its all when very young and can yet benefit from being kept for five to eight years.
Expect to pay approx £44 ($55)
50% Cabernet Franc and 50%. Dark plum/purple in colour. Notes of blueberry and blackberry the nose together with olive, liquorice and cedar wood. In the mouth the sensations are more espresso roast and chocolate. Drink now to 2030.
Expect to pay £450-550 Magnum $800-950 (tried in this tasting)
Ch. Angelus has even appeared in James Bond’s Casino Royale
Wine paired with Music
As with all articles i like to add a song , an album or just a piece of music. Angelus is steeped in tradition and thats its attraction. Sometimes music pairing just feels right. In this instance Tyler Childers song of Whitehouse Road shows a melodic uplifting beat that gradually improves over the length of the song. It is thoughtful, insightful and above all allows the listener to take their time and listen and enrich the listening experience.
In the same token Angelus should be enjoyed over time , no rush , no stress and the individual should enjoy the moment. So linking the two I’m trying to nudge the attraction of the wine not just to its traditional consumers but perhaps a more diverse audience.
Don’t worry ill never pair any wine with Justin Bieber. Life is too short !
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.
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
White Castle Vineyard is owned by Robb & Nicola Merchant and is situated in the beautiful rolling countryside of Monmouthshire in the village of Llanvetherine – Southern Wales. The 5-acre vineyard is planted on a south-facing slope that is ideal for growing vines and ripening grapes for this part of the country. Usually northern hemisphere vineyards need SE facing. Currently, in the UK we have close to 400 producers with 27 in Wales (2 even in Scotland)
Most of the vineyards in Wales have an area just under 1 x rugby pitch size (1ha) for their vines. Whitecastle has just under double that. Not a big size by modern day standards but a great feat considering the attention it has received in recent years. Its reputation has been steadily increasing largely due to supplying major supermarket/s and producing some pretty good wines!
As well as tending to the vines Rob has also been busy restoring a 16th century Croft Barn with Lottery Funding. Seems he never stops!
After exhaustive research into vineyard management the owners decided on the most suitable grape varieties for growing and after farming the land and planting the vines the first harvest was available in September 2011 two and a half years from the initial planting (2008)
The first harvest gained the vineyard Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) from Wine Standards, allowing the produce to be labeled Welsh Quality Wine. This is the top standard for UK wine and a great accolade for a 1styear of production.
WANT TO KNOW More. I can send you a fact-sheet about the quality control of wine. Email me email@example.com
When the vineyard reaches full production it should have the capacity to produce 12,000 bottles of wine a year, including sparkling wines.
Here is just a selection of wines from the vineyard.
Fortified Wine 1581 £25.00
Fortified wine. Deep Ruby in colour with a fragrant brambly aromas. The palette is Rich, round and smooth
Pair with Cheese, after dinner or alongside dessert.
Pinot Noir Reserve 2016 £25
Grape: Pinot Noir
Light and ruby coloured with a hint of vanilla, red currants and red cherries on the nose. On the palette is a big smack of blackberry and smoky vanilla
Pair with lamb, fish or pasta – might even suit Carpaccio of Ostrich!
Gwin Gwyn 2017 £15
Grape: Phoenix and Siegerrebe
A gentle “sniffy sniff” on the wine immerses yourself into a glass of floral elderflower with ripe citrus fruits.
Pair with shellfish such as oyster’s prawns lobster and any fish with a hard back!!
Sparkling white 2015 £30.00
An elegant Brut made in the Champagne style. On the nose it has hints of elderflower and gooseberry. A delicate mousse worthy of a champagne house Biscuity aromas
Pairing: most appetizers. Try it with fish and light. Toast with it before or after a meal.
Rose 2013 £13.50
Grape: Pinot Noir, Rondo and Siegerrebe
Dry delicate rose with a hint of strawberry and summer fruits. Good acidity and very refreshing.
Perfect for a summer party on a hot summers day. This is a fabulous aperitif that can be enjoyed all year round
Whitecastle also offers an option for members to plant One option for members is to plant a vine scheme. You can choose 1 of 5 grape varieties for 12 months. Rewards include: a personal certificate of adoption with a plaque with your chosen name placed on the vine. A tour of the vineyard for 2 people included with a glass of wine. An invite to the harvest to handpick the grapes, and a bottle from your adopted vine to take home. A great service and a revenue steam that will prove invaluable if an operation like this is to survive
2018 has seen an unprecedented year for yields on UK vineyards . This has been an exceptional year. Near perfect growing conditions created a bumper harvest. Whitecastle was no different . Harvest was on 27thSeptember with high yields and lasted till 21stOctober. Should be an interesting next 12 months for the vineyard !
It is fabulous to see a UK vineyard and more importantly a Welsh one doing so well in the marketplace. It is testament to the hard work and dedication that all producers put in to produce a product that 10 years ago would have been ridiculed. Robb and Nicola are passionate about this venture and when I saw Robb at the WineGB event, showcasing his wine, he was very personable and spent an inordinate amount of time talking to me. I know this vineyard will go from strength to strength. The varietals may not be to everyone’s taste and consumers may not know what Rondo and Siegerrebe are but they are delicate and balanced. Think of Rondo as an alternative Pinot Noir.
The (hazy ) view looking down onto Valpolicella country
So finally Summer is here and I am off on a long awaited trip to the open air opera festival in Verona. This was a trip that had been on the bucket list for quite some time, not just because of the world class opera but because Verona lies in the heart of the Valpolicella region, east of Lake Garda and west of Venice in Northern Italy. The hilly agricultural and marble-quarrying region north of the Adige is famous for wine production and is home to Italy’s, most famous, most celebrated, biggest and boldest wine – Amarone.
We chose to stay in a most welcoming Agroturismo, atop a hill just south of Verona. It was a well established place attracting both local and tourist custom. With its own organic winery and well run kitchens, breakfast and lunch under the shade of the vines was a most agreeable experience.
So after a couple of days squeezing in everything Verona had to offer; culture, opera, gelato, long evening strolls around town doing “La Passeggiata” moving gracefully as only a Brit resembling A Man from U.N.C.L.E. can do – the morning finally came when it was time to look beyond the city walls.
The countryside around Verona has some of Italys oldest wine production, established in the 16th century to quench the growing thirsts of the Italian Nobility. Words such as Negrar, Soave, Bardolino and towns that included the word “Valpolicella” litter the map. As a sight-seeing destination for wine buffs and amateurs alike, this region does not disappoint. Ancient terraces of vines, studded with cypresses and historic hilltop villages. Personally, I find this region rivals the more feted Tuscany in terms of prettiness.
Our destination was the picturesque village of Fumane di Valpolicella, home to a foremost Amarone producer the Allegrini Family who have been producing wine for over four hundred years. Its vineyards span 247 acres or 100 rugby pItches of vines. They produce their flagship wines of La Grola, Palazzo della Torre and La Poja from four Vineyards each showcasing different styles; .Corte Giara is their young, easy drinking wines, Poggio al Tesoro produces more restrained, elegant wines and San Polo the perfect terroir for Sangiovese grapes producing wines with great finesse of fragrances and elegant flavours. Allegrini also purchased the Villa Della Torre estate in the heart of Fumane di Valpolicella which now serves as the official Headquarters of its operations
The red wine known as Valpolicella is typically made from 4 grape varieties. Click on 4 grape varieties (below) to learn more. These grapes produce a variety of wine styles including a Recioto dessert wine and Amarone, a strong wine made from dried grapes.
Corvina Veronese, Corvinone, Rondinella, and Molinara.
The most basic Valpolicella Classicos are light, fragrant table wines similar to Beaujolais nouveau and released only a few weeks after harvest and not for ageing. Valpolicella Superiore is aged at least one year with an alcohol content of 12 percent. Valpolicella Ripasso is a form of Valpolicella Superiore but made with partially dried grape skins left over from the fermentation of Amarone or Recioto.
Amarone della Valpolicella, usually known as Amarone, is a rich Italian dry red wine made from the partially dried grapes of the Corvina and other approved red grape varieties (up to 25%).
The afternoon of wine tasting at Villa Delle Torre kicked off with a tour of the house and gardens with a glass of the Estates cool, crisp Soave in hand before retiring to a barrel-vaulted wine tasting room for the main event – a tasting of five of their fantastic wines accompanied by hunks of salty aged Parmesan and fresh local bread.
GW Tasting Notes:
Grapes : Garganega and Chardonnay Straw yellow in colour and the nose reveals notes of white flowers followed by fresher jasmine flowers and a crisp and delicate citrus vein.
GW Score 4*
Grape varieties: Corvina Veronese 70%, Rondinella 30% Ruby red in colour, the nose shows notes of cherries, echoed by fresher hints of pepper and aromatic herbs. Whilst young it is lively and playful – delicate later on.
GW Score 4*
PALAZZO DELLA TORRE 2015
Grape varieties: Corvina Veronese 40%, Corvinone 30%, Rondinella 25%, Sangiovese 5% This wine is elegant good aroma. Ruby red in colour with purple hues, it offers hints of raisins, vanilla, black pepper, cloves and cinnamon. Soft and velvety tannins with a long finish. The delightful aroma of raisined grapes is enhanced if the wine is served at 18° C in a large wine glass.
GW Score 5*
Grape varieties: Corvina Veronese 45%, Corvinone 45%, Rondinella 5%, Oseleta 5% Vintage 2014 began with a mild winter. From April onwards, the weather started to get progressively worse, culminating in a surprisingly cold and wet summer. Meticulous trimming and selection was necessary at harvest time to select grapes of sufficient quality. Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella and Oseleta are left to air dry at least until December and are then checked daily to ensure perfectly healthy grapes. This wine has structure and depth and shows mature fruit and spices – good acidity and smooth tannins.
GW Score 5*
Give this region a try and find something “just off the beaten track” that you just wouldn’t normally experience. Who wouldn’t like a christmas pudding in a wine or cracked black pepper smattered all over a dark red ! Valpolicella is is now a top ten region for me.
Now there’s a famous saying that you shouldn’t mention politics and religion in the same sentence whilst in the presence of friends. Times have changed…. In the run up to the exit of Europe we should be discussing and lobbying the Government on this fragile but very successful industry. Not only do we had 397 vineyards ( 27 in Wales.) But we are not currently championing home grown talent. When was the last time you went into a pub and had the choice of ordering extensive UK wine. Where is the loyalty ! Who wouldn’t want to pay £14.99 (retail) for a UK produced wine. Just this weekend (28/10/18) i went into a farm shop and although they had some UK wine and spirits products IT was a poor advert for a great industry.
British sparkling wine , however, has seen a resurgence in recent years and has even taken on Champagne producers and sparkling wine estates with great effect. UK wines are on the cusp of becoming notably international. Always been the country that produced laughable wine. Now we are a force to be reckoned with. 2018 has seen a bumper harvest. (UK Report )
Oatley vineyard is one such place. Great vineyard producing fabulous wines
Jane and Ian(below)
upsticked in 1985 from west London and moved to Somerset – Investing not only a new life but also £350 on a 1951 Ferguson T20 tractor.
What a beauty ( not the exact one but you get the idea ! )
Having had a few facelifts in its long life they used the tractor to help sow the seeds (sorry!) for the future. In the initial days both of them worked long hours and sacrificed blood ,sweat and tears. Vines soon flourished and 3 years later (usually the time it take vines to produce fruit (grapes)), on the 5th November 1988, the vineyard came alive.
In the early days the reward for helping with the harvest was bread and cheese for the harvest workers, now its a 4 course meal with the estates wine. Just shows how far the vineyard has come !
The vineyard is situated in the SW on England , just south of Wales. It is only 1 Ha or 2.47 acres or 1x International sized rugby pitch
(If you look at the top right of the photo you’ll see the vines)
The vineyard aims to use very little herbicides, using good husbandry to minimise the need for fungicides. To produce dry wines that reflect the vines, the place and the year both Jane and Ian
– use minimum intervention winemaking and low levels of sulphur;
– use lower weight bottles to keep our carbon footprint low;
– use high quality traditional corks to help maintain the important mixed cork oak ecology in Portugal;
– sell mainly directly within the southwest of England: low “wine miles’;
– maintain our old vines in good health for as long as we can, keeping our traditional aromatic vine varieties;
– promote biodiversity by letting our alleys come up to seed in May and June, letting our hedges grow and maintaining a wild area next to the vineyard
– stay small and make only wines that we like to drink, from vines tended mainly by our own hands.
Their philosophy is to manage the vines meticulously so as to minimise disease through vine management and minimise artificial controls. They use no herbicides and promote biodiversity and try to have a low carbon footprint (see points above)
Most years they produce two dry white wines from their two grape varieties. Kernling and Madelaine Angevine
Kernling is a white grape variety, which originated from mutation from the grape variety Kerner. Whilst Madeleine Angevine is a white wine grape from the loire valley in France. It is also popular in Germany, Kyrgyzstan and Washington State,USA. Madeleine Angevine is a fruity wine with a flowery nose similar to an Alsatian Pinot Blanc. It is crisp, acid and dry and pairs particularly well with seafoods such as crab and oyster
Oatley Vineyard’ Range – Leonora’s and Jane’s.
“Leonora’s” wines are dry and elegant, similar to a dry Riesling in style. They can be drunk young but develop in the bottle, showing complex honey
overtones when approaching four years old or more. made from Kernling grapes, a first cross from Riesling that ripens to pink – it is the pink clone of the better-known Kerner grape.
“Jane’s” wines, from golden Madeleine Angevine grapes are light and crisp with a flower-scented nose
and citrus notes, sometimes with a hint of elderflower and on the finish, gooseberry. Delightful as an aperitif, for a party, in a summer garden or just for a refreshing glass at home. Best drunk young and fresh, within 2-3 years. Often likened to a restrained Sauvignon Blanc in style.
Every now and then they produce a blend of the two varietals, named “Elizabeth’s” after their daughter. These wines, when available, make good wines to pair with food with the structure of the Kernling coupled with upfront fruit from the Madeleine,
Oatley has one French oak barrel, hand-coopered by Master Cooper Alastair Sims. It is light-toasted and fine-grained – from the Tronçais forest – for subtlety.
A small amount of wine was used to make barrel matured wine between 2010-2015. From 2016 onwards a new barrel was used , a barrique from Seguin Moreau of Cognac, known as a “Fraicheur”, made especially for light varietals, with fine grained French oak staves, very light toast and heads made from acacia rather than oak, to add a little brightness to the flavour. In 2016 they won a trophy for their endeavours (see link below)
Their winemaker is Steve Brooksbank, at Bagborough, near Shepton Mallet where he destems, crushes and presses the grapes for Oatley. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks. Which lessens the influence of oak – so wine is clean and fresh. They also use lighter weight, (400g) bottles to keep our wines’ carbon footprint down. Everything that they do at Oatley is for the sustainability and the lesser impact on the environment
A very noble thing to do.
The Grape Wizard Geeky stuff
In 2011 EU wine legislation went through a few changes and there are now 4 distinct categories of wine that all vineyards have to adhere to if they want to put certain descriptions on the label Click here for more info !
NON PDO/PGI still wines (Varietal )
NON PDO/PGI Sparkling wines (WINES)
Oatley vineyard has the honour of having all its wines at PDO level. English Wine PDO is the highest quality standard for English wines. English Regional Wine PGI is of similar technical standard but can include wine from hybrid vines and wines with no, or little, added sulphites.
Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) denotes
• Quality and characteristics that are essentially or exclusively attributable to the geographical environment in which it is produced
• The grapes have been grown exclusively in the defined region (ie England/Wales) and are only of the Vitis Vinifera genus
• The production of the wine takes place in the defined region (England/Wales)
Wines will be labelled English (or Welsh) Quality Wine.
Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) denotes
• Wines produced under this scheme must possess a specific quality, reputation or other characteristics attributable to the geographical origin
• At least 85% of grapes used for its production have been grown in the defined region (ie England/Wales), with the rest from the UK, and are of the Vitis Vinifera genus or a cross of Vitis Vinifera and another genus of Vitis (therefore allowing hybrid varieties such as Seyval Blanc)
• The production of the wine takes place in the named area (England/Wales)
Wines will be labelled English (or Welsh) Regional Wine
NON PDO/PGI still/ sparkling wines (Varietal )
This category sits above basic uncertified wine. Successful application for this status allows the wine producer to state the cultivar and vintage on their label e.g. ‘Bacchus 2015’.
Where 85% or more of the grapes used in the wine are of a single variety then it is permissible to show just that variety. If more than one variety is stated then all varieties included must be shown in descending order of percentage. In either case at least 85% of the grapes must come from the stated vintage.Use of the protected term ‘English’ or ‘Welsh’ or ‘English Regional’ or ‘Welsh Regional’is NOT permitted on labels.There is no testing requirement for this status.
Can be labelled as ‘varietal wine’.
NON PDO/PGI Sparkling/still wines (WINES)
This wine has not passed through one of the above categories in the UK Quality Wine Schemes and does not have to have been tested.
Labels should be kept plain and refer to the product simply as ‘white wine’ for example. Use of the protected term ‘English’ or ‘Welsh’ or ‘English Regional’ or ‘Welsh Regional’ is NOT permitted on labels. Statements of vine variety and vintage are NOT permitted on labels. There is no testing requirement for this status.
Only Wines and Quality Sparkling Wines that have passed through the appropriate wine scheme are permitted to indicate vineyard name.
In order to gain PDO and PGI status wines are required to pass independent assessments after the wine has been bottled. Applications will be swiftly processed, enabling producers to market and sell their wines efficiently. All successful wines will be listed on the UKVA website, enabling trade and consumer customers to verify the wines they buy. Consumers and trade buyers are therefore assured that there is a system in place to ensure quality standards are met every step of the way.
Producers that opt out of putting their wines through the scheme may use the term ‘English (or Welsh) Wine’ on the label but other information is restricted; for example vineyard location cannot be included. The term ‘Table wine’ has now disappeared.
TheGrapewizard Vintage Notes for Oatley Vineyard
2014 was a top year Lots of grapes and fruit ripened sufficiently . Almost no pests and an early harvest. Some would say it was a stress free year ! Jane’s 2014 was awarded a Silver Medal in the Summer 2015 UKVA competition.
2015 Colder than 2014 , difficult year to ripen grapes The grape sugars were ok but failed to colour up and the acidity was high. Madeleine was good but the Kernling lacked intensity in the mid-palate. Decision was taken to blend the two varietal wines and producer 2015 “Elizabeth’s”.
2016 was a dream year for vine growers with rain and sun in all; the right places. “Jane’s 2016” was very popular
2017 Spring frosts with warm dry summer let to lower than expected volumesThe Jane’s 2017 will be released in early summer 2018. The Leonora’s 2017 will be cellared for a year or two.
So Jane and Ian have kept what they believe to be true. To keep their integrity and to showcase their wines in the environment that they are grown in . Wines are sold locally, farming practices are always in the continuing improvement of the estate and only make wines when they believe that any of their 3 wines are at their best. Using their two major varietals to make a third wine when they can’t or don’t want to use Madelaine or Kernling is a good marketing tool. Although small they seem to be vert adept at getting the most out of the environment. Its testament to their ideals and beliefs.
I think if they made a sparkling wine they would do rather well at it. I hope with the bumper harvest of 2018 great things will come from the estate.
all photos with kind permission from Oatley vineyard
As I write this the “Beast from the East” and a local UK storm “Emma” is firmly beating down upon us ! – Scotland is in the grip of -15, Most of NE England has fallen to a stand still and most of SW is almost under control of the Army . Almost sounds like this could be a take over from a military dictatorship or an episode from “Game of Thrones”
The polar vortex nicknamed “Beast From The East” has spiraled in from the arctic and is to blame. Winter is coming…..
What caused this and what can we do to solve it !
A polar vortex is a mass of desperately cold air that sits above the Earth’s north and south poles. Controlled by a large pocket of low pressure it rotates in an anti-clockwise direction at the North Pole and clockwise at the South Pole. When the vortex is strong it is concentrated over the Arctic or Antarctic area -but when weak it can split into two or more freezing vortices. This is where the problems start as they can move south to Canada, the USA and Europe, increasing the risk of air temperatures decreasing to potentially dangerous levels.Which is what we are witnessing at the moment.
Photo taken this week showing the cold snap over most of Europe
This weeks weather affecting airports
NATIONAL MULLED WINE DAY USA
National Mulled Wine Day is observed annually on March 3rd.
Mulled spirits are wine and liquors that have been heated and spiced. Mulled wine is usually made with red wine (usually inexpensive but full of fruit – Cabernet Sauvignon works best) with various spices, fruits and sometimes slightly sweetened with honey. Popular blends include cinnamon, nutmeg, citrus, vanilla, anise, cloves, raisins or pears. Despite its high sugar content, mulled wine is not a drink that ages well.
Historically Pubs who make their own usually make a rather thin alternative to mulled wine that was once designed to show off the wealth and generosity in Medevial times. Indeed a cookery book published about 1390 first highlight the potential benefits of a warming drink. With a recipe which included cinnamon, ginger, galangal, cloves, long pepper, nutmeg, marjoram, cardamom and grains of paradise itwas more overpowering and medicinal than it was enjoyable
what all of these recipes show is that the mulled wine is a basic drink. Not much finesse , not much elegance but a pleasant spiced alcoholic drink merely for warming the soul.Because of its basic Nature it can never command an expensive price and is therefore great in Winter for people to enjoy a drink with friends.
Although a person who mixes spices with this scarce Cabernet is a brave person!!!
The Franz Stettner & Sohn firm is one of the largest distilleries in Bavaria. Everything began with a bottle of lemon liqueur on 12 July 1949. Since then, the firm has passed into the hands of its third generation, with premises of over 40,000 m², its own transport fleet of 23 trucks, a warehouse with a capacity of over three million litres, and six fully automated filling lines. In our selection, you will find the most diverse fruit brandies and liqueurs, distinguished wines, as well as sparkling wines, Champagnes, Federweisser, mulled wines, and fruit and honey wines. Our self-produced, alcohol-free range includes fruit juices, spritzers, refreshment drinks and mixers, energy drinks, iced tea, mineral and table waters, and syrups and of course mulled wine
2 unwaxed oranges
1 lemon, peel only
150g caster sugar
5 cloves, plus extra for garnish
5 cardamom pods, bruised
1 cinnamon stick
A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 bottles of fruity, unoaked red wine
150ml ginger wine
1. Peel and juice 1 orange, and add to a large saucepan along with the lemon peel, sugar and spices. Add enough wine to just cover the sugar, and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, stirring occasionally. Bring to the boil and cook for 5 – 8 minutes until you have a thick syrup.
2. Meanwhile, if you’re serving the mulled wine immediately, stud the second orange with 6 vertical lines of cloves, and then cut into segments to use as a garnish.
3. Turn the heat down, and pour the rest of the wine into the saucepan, along with the ginger wine. Gently heat through and serve with the orange segments as a garnish. Alternatively, you can allow the syrup to cool, and pour it into sterilised bottles for use at a later date.
Is mulled wine a guaranteed spirit raiser, or by far the worst thing about Christmas – Slade and paper hats included? What do you put in your own festive punch – or what would you prefer to be offered instead?
Classic ingredients: Blanched almonds + berries + raisins + cinnamon + sugar + cloves + fruit juice (grape / orange / blackberry) + wine (maybe a Scandi merlot).
Recommended grape varieties:
Fruity red wines are especially suitable for making a good Glühwein. By heating the wine the aromas which are often reminiscent of red fruit are particularly strongly expressed and create a wonderful harmony with the seasoning ingredients.
Red wine varieties that go well with the spices include Cabernet Sauvignon, Rioja Crianza and a Merlot. Grape varieties that either have black or red fruit with little tannins and little oak will work well. Pinot noir is especially worth a try. Even go for a German Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir).
So today is mulled wine day in most countries. even if it isn’t who needs an excuse to try a variation on any of the above recipes. Give it a try. Enjoy the warming drink , sniff the aromas and have fun.