Tomas Clancy reviews Bride Valley Vineyards, Bella Rosa, English Sparkling Wine, Dorset 2014 and Domaine Les Heritiers Saint Genys, Santenay Blanc, AC Santenay 2016
Bride Valley Vineyards, Bella Rosa, English Sparkling Wine, Dorset 2014
Pricing : €59.95
Available : Good independent off licences and wine shops nationwide
Today, the 31st of January is Brexit Day, after almost 50 years, the UK is leaving the EU, but of course in physical reality, the UK is going nowhere and this is seen most physically through the lens of English Wine.
This really very excellent wine is made in county Dorset around about 25 miles from the small village of Kimmeridge, the village giving its name to the rocky sub soil, the limestone bowl on which all of southern England sits.
This bowl of limestone is almost 1000km in diameter and runs from south of London across Champagne, to the east of Paris and down to Chablis and to Sancerre in the Loire.
The white chalky soils of this massive basin are famously cut open by the channel as it is called in England or La Manche as it is called in France and the White Cliffs of Dover are the chalky reveal.
England and Europe are one rocky entity once you begin to even scratch the surface.
Wine writers in England, often the most outlooking of people are also huge lovers of Europe, Stephen Spurrier, the owner and founder of Bride Valley is one such wine writer.
He is one of the most revered and spent the 1970s building bridges to French culture and to the newly emerging global wine culture.
He lived in Paris, and devised and held what Time Magazine called the most important wine tasting contest in history, The Judgement of Paris in 1976 which was a contest between French and Napa wines, won by an Irishman, owner of Napa’s Chateau Montelena.
Spurrier knows wine and wanted to bring French culture and joy to the UK, he has found soils nearly identical to Champagne, they are simply an extension of the same chalky sub soils and he has planted Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meurnier in Dorset, in a suntrap natural amphitheatre.
Using the same grapes, techniques, soils and wine making techniques he has produced one of English wines finest offerings.
This is the Rose, with 80% Pinot Noir is opulent, fruity and delicate. Fully ripe Chardonnay, around 10% brings just a blush of toasty, wholemeal biscuit tones and there is a fine, lifted, snappy finish. A delight and a reminder that a large part of the UK remains EU focussed in their heart and ambition and they have put down European roots and when they embrace that European culture as here, glorious things may yet develop and continue.
Domaine Les Heritiers Saint Genys, Santenay Blanc, AC Santenay 2016
Pricing : €35
Available : Independent Wine Shops and Off Licences nationwide
This wine is from the heart of the Cote D’Or in Burgundy. All too often wine lovers find themselves looking the village, region or nation next door to the iconic heartland of say Burgundy as here.
We can enjoy the wines of Macon, or New Zealand’s fine Pinot Noir, almost like a Burgundy or California’s, Oregon’s or Australia’s great Chardonnay so, reminiscent of Burgundy, but sometimes it is a joy and a revelation to go back and actually taste heartland Burgundy again.
In this case from vineyards in Santenay, by a producer from neighbouring appellation and tiny village, Chassagne-Montrachet. The winery here is comparatively new and has acquired vineyards across southern Burgundy, vinifying them in the contemporary fashion, eschewing pesticides, hand harvesting and generally working in a sustainable and reasoned way.
Their youthfulness and less famous profile offers as in this wine a comparatively cheaper way into tasting across appellations where the bottles are often twice and three times the price. It is far from cheap but these 1000 year old vineyards have been fought over by Dukes and Kings and owned by the powerful and wealthy since the Romans first planted vines here. The vineyards and the wines are the blueprint on which the rest of the world operates and compares themselves too.
This example from 2016 is warm, full bodied and complex with layers of nutty, toasty brioche and melting butter lushness. It has a warm, evolving finish with a savoury lip-smacking edge.
In most weeks we look at wines close to or like the Cote D’Or because the offer an evocative similar experience