17 Jul 2006

UK Wine Of The Year

I WAS invited to the English and Welsh Wine of the Year tasting today, patriotically held at the RAF Club, 128 Piccadily, home to the 'Brill Cream boys'. Amongst the judges for this annual competition were five Masters of Wine, an impressive tally. A journalist from the self-proclaimededly "hip" 'Wine & Spirit' magazine hovered whilst a Waitrose buyer lurked, such is the interest in home-grown wine.

Chapel Down's '04 firebrick red Pinot Noir [£12.99] took a Gold Trophy, although the blatant American and French oak flattened the raspberry scents underneath. In my opinion such an overdose of oak is indulgent, equivalent to a chef deficient in the ability to judge "a pinch" of salt. Whilst wittily named, their '05 'English Rose' rosé (also Gold Trophy) had a dash of 'Ethyl acetate' (pear drops) something prevalent in too many rosés [£7.49]. The Bacchus Reserve '04 (Gold) was however like a condensed whisper although I worry it was perhaps too subtle [£9.99]. The Pinot Reserve '01 [£24.99] flagship fizz (Silver) was fresh with character, a blend of Pinot Noir and - imaginatively - Pinot Blanc, a relative of Chardonnay and the main component of Cremant d'Alsace.

Also traditional method sparkling, Nutbourne's affectionately titled "Nutty" '04 (Silver) was attractively priced [£10.80] resembling Wyken's Moonshine although the bubbles didn't have the same alacrity and the packaging was 'cider bottle' (right). Nyetimber's '03 Blanc de Noirs Pinot Meunier (Gold) was expressive and long-lived on the palate; the youngest wine I've tasted from this estate, already an icon. Throwley Vineyard's Reserve Brut '01 (Silver) had a classicaly oily-rich edge.
Ridgeview's Merret Pimlico '03 (Silver) startled me - perhaps England's first sparkling red and confidently assembled. Matured in old oak for seven months and new world in style, this long-lived, mildly tannic, rather fun being was born in small quantity to exploit the ripeness of fruit that vintage. A perfect English breakfast wine. Their gently blushing salmon pink Fitzrovia '03 is still my preference, however. The estate takes its name from Londoner Christopher Merret who in 1662 described how to make wine sparkle several years before the French monk allegedly uttered "Come quickly, I am drinking the stars!" Each style is named after a choice London area in Merret's honour.

I liked Brightwell's '05 aromatic, white peach like Bacchus (Silver) from Oxford. Its proprietor Bob Nielson voiced some interesting thoughts about UK wine (I will be writing more about this, please see the foot of this article). Camel Valley's screwcapped Bacchus '05 (Silver) was slick with the same focus as its maverick maker Bob Lindo. It posessed a NZ/UK ambiguity [£10.95]. New Hall's '05 Bacchus (also Silver) showed promise but was a touch frisky [£5.90]. Worthenbury's '04 Sauvignon Blanc [£8] grown under polytunnels in Wales, had developed since I last tasted it, delivering a dramatic interpretation of the grape with a creamy finish. Stylishly calibrated.

Three Choirs Noble Rot '03 (same winemaker as Worthenbury - Martin Fowke) was handsome, thorny - a poised curio - with a thrilling acidity.

Denbies was justifiably well represented, and here are my earlier thoughts.

I am currently researching a full article about English Wine which will appear on the main site by the end of September and hopefully further afield.
The Grinch surfaces: Having seen an idiosyncratic subject I wrote about appear as the focus of a national paper's wine column I've introduced a caveat to the copyright of this blog, 'Reviews may be quoted provided reference is given'. Seeing ideas 'adopted' is flattering and frustrating, something I often saw when working in television, talking of which a near hyperactive e-mail just bounced into my inbox from the BBC addressed to indie producers. On the new commissioning procedure: '...changes, due to be fully operational by April 2007, will enable 360 degree commissioning and production and ensure creative coherence and editorial leadership across all platforms and media...' Clear as Mikasa 'Kwarx'!