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Innovation and experimentation

We occasionally get asked at Grape Britannia whether we find it limiting to only stock English and Welsh wines. Our honest answer is that the lack of regulatory strictures on grapes, wine-making methods and so on, combined with the level of experimentation and innovation means that the range of types and styles we can offer is amazingly broad – we never feel constrained, and indeed every month brings something new. Here we feature four wines that, for one reason or another, are at the cutting edge.

Balfour Hush Heath Leslie's Reserve Red NV Sparkling English Wine
Balfour Hush Heath Leslie’s Reserve Red NV

Balfour Hush Heath Estate Leslie’s Reserve Red NV

Grape: Pinot Noir

Sparkling reds, the perfect accompaniment to the Full English Breakfast! And not just that artery-clogger, but also charcuterie, mushroom-based dishes, pizzas with meat toppings and lentil salads. This Kentish special is closer to a Lambrusco Rosso in style than an Australian Sparkling Shiraz, and in our humble view, all the better for that.

Unusual as well in modern English Sparkling Wine in that it ventures beyond the Brut segment into Off-dry, it remains happily balanced with a mouth-watering acidity. Ripe strawberries, raspberries and cherries – yum, yum, yum!

Bluebell Ashdown Estate White 2018 English White Wine
Bluebell Vineyard Ashdown Estate White 2018

Bluebell Vineyard Ashdown Estate White 2018

Grapes: Chasselas

Chasselas, one of Switzerland’s signature grape varieties; but you knew that, of course. Rarely seen outside the cantons of that mountainous nation, it has a reputation for being rather neutral in the wrong terroir and climate – but in Bluebell Vineyard’s bucolic East Sussex vineyards it shines.

On the nose are stone fruit aromas of peach and nectarine, and floral notes of citrus blossom and honeysuckle. On the palate there is a broad range from English hedgerow through to melon, taking in ripe green apple and greengage on the way.

Albourne Bacchus Frizzante 2018 Sparkling English Wine
Albourne Estate Bacchus Frizzante 2018

Albourne Estate Bacchus Frizzanté 2018

Grape: Bacchus

What is more refreshing than a crisp, dry English Bacchus? A crisp, dry English Bacchus with some fizz to it, that’s what. No methode traditionelle here: those yeasty aromas and flavours would clash – simply a gentle carbonation to lift to another level. Only a couple of atmospheres of pressure, screw-cap sufficient to contain.

A classic, well-made Bacchus – just-flowered elderflower, grapefruit, not-quite-ripe mango on the nose, with a faintly herbal and lanolin edge, ripe lemon, and gooseberry flavours and that lovely tickle of a frizzante that will put an unforced smile on your face.

White Castle 1581 Fortified Wine 2015 English Red Wine
White Castle 1581 Fortified Wine 2015

White Castle Vineyard 1581 Fortified Wine 2015

Grape: Regent

We can’t call this port, but it’s made the same way as a Late Bottled Vintage, just in the vales outside Abergavenny rather than the Douro Valley. From an excellent parcel of lusciously ripe Regent grapes harvested in October 2015, the wine was fortified after partial fermentation and left in barrel for 4 years before being bottled in December 2019. White Castle Vineyard’s Pinot Noir 2017 was recently featured on the BBC’s Saturday Kitchen, but this fortified wine is another highlight of their range.

This lovely liquid displays powerful blackberry and bramble aromas and flavours, with undercurrents of blackcurrant and sweet spice, and is rich, soft and lingering on the palate. We recommend decanting for a at least an hour before sampling to get the best from it.