On my social media feeds over the past few weeks, a lot of people seem to have been reaching into their wine racks / cupboards / cellars and pulling out those really expensive bottles that have been sat there for a few years, waiting for the right occasion. People also seem to have been exploring new wines, often via online tastings.
These are certainly behaviours that I’ve been indulging in over the past month. There are some days though, particularly when the late spring weather takes a turn for the worse and lockdown life is that bit harder to bear, that all I want is an old familiar, favourite – a comfort wine, if you like, one that you just know is going to hit the spot, and bring back memories of those happy occasions on which you’ve drunk it before.
So in this article I’m covering four of these wines. Maybe they resonate the same way with you and might inspire you to re-taste them, or perhaps for you they will be a new wine to explore – none of them are expensive bottles for you to leave in your wine store to gather dust for a few years!
Region: West Sussex
The sweeter styles of sparkling wine are out of fashion, unfairly so in my opinion. Wonderfully versatile in terms of food pairing, but delightful sipped on its own, a Demi-Sec can be perfect for any occasion. Nyetimber’s Cuvée Cherie NV is an absolutely bang-on-the-money example of this style, as you would expect from England’s most garlanded sparkling wine producer.
The key to a good Demi-Sec is balancing out that additional sugar with good levels of natural acidity. Here, the 38g/L of residual sugar are matched with 8.5g/L of acidity and a pH of 3.0. Utilising only Chardonnay, with its more linear characteristics, also prevents an overly rounded and blowsy style. Aromas of ripe lemon, sea breeze and honey tones and a hint of tangerine fill the nose. The palate has a lively, lemon tart and apple pie start offset by crisp acidity and a very clean, pure structure.
Grapes: Chardonnay | Seyval Blanc | Pinot Noir
A fresh and fruity fizz, perfect for all celebrations, from the second-generation winemaker Sam Lindo at Camel Valley. We’ve lost track of how many of the customers in our shop have talked of stopping off at the vineyard as they made their way along the Camel Valley bike trail – and without exception their eyes light up with the memory of sipping a glass of this English Sparkling Wine as they sat in the sunshine on the terrace overlooking the valley.
Cool temperature winemaking techniques have been employed to retain freshness of fruit flavours, and lees ageing carefully judged to provide that additional level of complexity while allowing the fruit to be very much at the fore. With English hedgerow scents on the nose, lemon, pink grapefruit, Granny Smith and just a touch of honey on the palate, this is a sensationally satisfying fizz.
Incredibly, Chapel Down produce six different expressions of Bacchus, including a carbonated sparkling version and an oaked edition from their best vineyard at Kits Coty. For my money, however, their 2018 “entry level” still Bacchus is the perfect standard bearer for this now most English of hybrid German grapes. It is our best-selling wine apart from our house wines, and for good reason.
Chapel Down Bacchus is aromatic and fresh in style. It has aromas of melon and peach with background floral notes. The palate is well-balanced, with citrus notes of lime and grapefruit mingling with more tropical tones, and it has a light and delicate finish.
Grapes: Regent | Rondo | Triomphe
Three Choirs have crafted one of the broadest ranges of still English wines of any vineyard, with admirable value for money across their portfolio. Most of their vines are at least 10 years old, with many well into their third decade, adding depth and intensity to the wines. Their winemaker, Martin Fowkes, has 30 vintages under his belt, a feat few, if any, in the English wine industry, can match.
The Ravens Hill is a deep, ruby-coloured red wine full of ripe blackberry and cherry fruit on the nose with a subtle hint of lightly toasted oak from the American barrel ageing. English red berry fruit character dominates on the palate, (damson, cherry, with a hint of blackberry and raspberry) and on the finish subtle vanilla from the oak adds a degree of complexity.