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Hattingley Valley – “Unapologetically British”

Another English vineyard, another new building signposting the expansion of the English wine industry. In this case, the “Shed”, for storage of wine, had been completed just the day before my visit in April 2019, and, despite its employment of sympathetic materials, stood out with its sheen of newness. Doubtless, it will quickly weather into the background.

The background, however, is not where Hattingley Valley’s English Sparkling Wines will languish. One of the largest English wine producers, Hattingley are producing wines that compare with the best sparkling wines in the world, pound for pound. They are also taking their wines to market in fresh and innovative ways – their “Mad Hattingley Tea Party” at Taste of London in 2019 was a huge success, for example. Their “Unapologetically British” branding and marketing is certainly eye-catching and idiosyncratic.

Hattingley’s owner, Simon Robinson, a former partner in a large corporate law firm in London, has clearly assembled an excellent team and given them the space to experiment and flourish. Winemaker Emma Rice has won many plaudits and awards for her Hattingley wines. In the winery, potential new blends and styles are regularly trialled, with the current range including a sparkling Pinot Noir, a dessert wine, a still Bacchus and an eau de vie.

But it is their range of classic English Sparkling Wines which, like many other English wine producers, forms the core of the range.

Their Hattingley Valley Classic Reserve NV is a superb starting point. It’s made from the main Champagne grapes, Chardonnay (50%), Pinot Noir (30%) and Pinot Meunier (19%), with the tiniest splash of Pinot Gris in the blend. 25% of the blend was barrel-fermented in three-to-four year old Burgundy barrels to provide added texture and body. This, combined with the lees ageing – 8 months in tank or barrel followed by 21 months in bottle after the secondary fermentation – produce a superbly full mouth-feel, perfectly balanced by the crisp acidity that English Sparkling Wines are famous for. The buttery toast notes sit harmoniously with the green and red apple aromas and flavours and ripe lemon nuances. It also has a beautifully fine, persistent mousse.

Changing colour, the Hattingley Valley Rosé 2014 is somewhat lighter in body, having spent slightly less time on lees and with a lower proportion fermented in barrels, but it displays a fabulous array of red fruit aromas, with strawberry, raspberry and cranberry clearly evident, with subtle shortbread hints. The blend is Pinot Noir dominant, at 60%. It should be a versatile food wine, working well with most typical canapes as well as charcuterie.

Back to the white sparkling wines, the limited release prestige Kings Cuvée 2013 is based on grapes from two selected south-facing slopes in Hampshire, with a 70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir blend. The juice is fermented 100% in old oak barrels and then aged in these for 8 months; it also has 30 months on the lees. With the premium fruit and investment of time, a truly complex wine has been created. Delicate yet rich, with a spectrum of fruit from crisp lemon to baked apples, vanilla, buttery toast and brioche and a wonderfully long finish.

From the same vintage, the Hattingley Valley Blanc de Blancs 2013 is another fascinating and multifaceted wine of a very different style, displaying all the linear lines and minerality combined with the classic citrus and apple flavours one would expect from a great Blanc de Blancs. No malolactic fermentation was allowed, to preserve the crisp acidity that, in tandem with the fruit and oak tannins, will allow this wine to age and develop for a very long time.

Last but not least, the slightly sweeter 2013 Demi-Sec (all the others are Brut in style). I really do love this style: I think that an English Demi-Sec made from high-quality raw materials, with the excellent levels of acidity (here 10.2g/l) that our climate allows, can be one of the most refreshing yet flavoursome fizzes in the world. It is also a perfect party wine – superb solo, but capable of standing up to quite robust flavours and both savoury and sweet dishes. This Demi-Sec is also a Blanc de Noirs, and the red fruit, baked apple and pastry notes combine sensationally.  

With the impeccably high-quality nature of the range, it is definitely the case that Hattingley can stand firmly behind their “Unapologetically British” slogan – there is no need to apologise for anything, quite the opposite: these are wines to sing the praises of, loudly.

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