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Eimverk Distillery Iceland

It’s the holidays and a short break is needed. Unfortunately I’ve chosen the wrong place to look for grapes as I am off to Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. This is a breathtaking land of ice and fire: long winters, frozen lakes, spouting hot springs called geysers and big woolly jumpers which dot the otherworldly, volcanic landscape now familiar to all Game of Thrones fans.
 Around three-quarters of the island is barren of vegetation; plant life consists mainly of grassland, which is regularly grazed by sheep (sheep out number Icelanders almost 3 to 1).

Fabulous vistas

Iceland’s national spirit is Brennivín. Its potency has earned it the nickname ‘black death’. It is a type of schnapps distilled from potato mash and caraway seeds and well known for washing down the taste of the putrefied-shark dish, hákarl. This spirit is only brewed in Iceland and only in one distillery!
 Imagine then my relief when I read that Iceland also has a booming craft distillery culture!!

The Icelandic climate has only twice in recorded history allowed for decent amounts of grain – first during settlement times, and now, due to global warming. The early settlers grew and brewed barley into mead and ale, and after barley production died down, schnapps or potato vodka became the drinks of choice for Icelanders. Now, with barley production growing again, that equation has changed.
 I contacted Eimverk Distillery ahead of time and they invited me to visit on one of their afternoon distillery tours.

Arriving at the small distillery in an industrial estate on the outskirts of Reykjavik, I was greeted by CEO Halli Thorkelsson, an extremely personable, dry-witted, entrepreneur with a huge passion for his family run distillery.

The distillery has already received critical acclaim for their gin named Vor, which got a Double Gold Award at the 2014 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

But we’re not here to just to just praise their gin, we’re here to taste their whisky as well, which is the first of its kind to be made in Iceland.
 What a pioneering spirit they have!
 Halli and his brother Egill wanted to see if they could make their own whisky, just for the fun of it. So they started to experiment with a small still and after more than 160 different recipes, learning the ropes along the way, they found one in 2009 that their friend’s and family’s feedback was worth pursuing.

Everything , since then, has sprung from there.

THE GEEKY STUFF

Eimverk gets most of their grain straight from the family farm. It’s 100% organic being exposed to nothing but the harsh Icelandic winter. With a shorter growing season, the barley with its low starch and sugar content, concentrates the flavours. The second ingredient, water, is a commodity that Iceland has in abundance and is so pure has no need to be treated – it comes straight from the tap!

Native botanicals


 Halli goes on to explain the inspiration behind their range of gins “Again we wanted to stay true to our heritage and only use native Icelandic ingredients. Vor, their small batch, barley-based, pot-distilled gin contains nine botanicals, wild picked Icelandic juniper, crowberries, birch leaves, thyme, Icelandic sea kelp and organically grown rhubarb and kale.

One variant is barrel-aged in first-fill virgin white oak barrels to give the gin a slightly woody, smokey character.

The surprise tipple of the day was their very pleasant `aquavit – Viti –

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Dramatic skies over Villa del Torre

The (hazy ) view looking down onto Valpolicella country

So finally Summer is here and I am off on a long awaited trip to the open air opera festival in Verona. This was a trip that had been on the bucket list for quite some time, not just because of the world class opera but because Verona lies in the heart of the Valpolicella region, east of Lake Garda and west of Venice in Northern Italy. The hilly agricultural and marble-quarrying region north of the Adige is famous for wine production and is home to Italy’s, most famous, most celebrated, biggest and boldest wine – Amarone.

We chose to stay in a most welcoming Agroturismo, atop a hill just south of Verona. It was a well established place attracting both local and tourist custom. With its own organic winery and well run kitchens, breakfast and lunch under the shade of the vines was a most agreeable experience.

So after a couple of days squeezing in everything Verona had to offer; culture, opera, gelato, long evening strolls around town doing “La passeggiata” moving gracefully as only a Brit resembling a man from Uncle can do – the morning finally came when it was time to look beyond the city walls.

The countryside around Verona has some of Italys oldest wine production, established in the 16th century to quench the growing thirsts of the Italian Nobility. Words such as Negrar, Soave, Bardolino and towns that included the word “Valpolicella” litter the map. As a sight-seeing destination for wine buffs and amateurs alike, this region does not disappoint. Ancient terraces of vines, studded with cypresses and historic hilltop villages. Personally, I find this region rivals the more feted Tuscany in terms of prettiness.

Our destination was the picturesque village of Fumane di Valpolicella, home to a foremost Amarone producer the Allegrini Family who have been producing wine for over four hundred years. Its vineyards span 247 acres or 100 rugby pItches of vines. They produce their flagship wines of La Grola, Palazzo della Torre and La Poja from four Vineyards each showcasing different styles; .Corte Giara is their young, easy drinking wines, Poggio al Tesoro produces more restrained, elegant wines and San Polo the perfect terroir for Sangiovese grapes producing wines with great finesse of fragrances and elegant flavours. Allegrini also purchased the Villa Della Torre estate in the heart of Fumane di Valpolicella which now serves as the official Headquarters of its operations

The red wine known as Valpolicella is typically made from 4 grape varieties. Click on 4 grape varieties (below) to learn more. These grapes produce a variety of wine styles including a Recioto dessert wine and Amarone, a strong wine made from dried grapes.

Corvina Veronese, Corvinone, Rondinella, and Molinara.

The most basic Valpolicella Classicos are light, fragrant table wines similar to Beaujolais nouveau and released only a few weeks after harvest and not for ageing. Valpolicella Superiore is aged at least one year with an alcohol content of 12 percent. Valpolicella Ripasso is a form of Valpolicella Superiore but made with partially dried grape skins left over from the fermentation of Amarone or Recioto.

Amarone della Valpolicella, usually known as Amarone, is a rich Italian dry red wine made from the partially dried grapes of the Corvina and other approved red grape varieties (up to 25%).

The afternoon of wine tasting at Villa Delle Torre kicked off with a tour of the house and gardens with a glass of the Estates cool, crisp Soave in hand before retiring to a barrel-vaulted wine tasting room for the main event – a tasting of five of their fantastic wines accompanied by hunks of salty aged Parmesan and fresh local bread.

GW Tasting Notes:

SOAVE 2017

Grapes : Garganega and Chardonnay
Straw yellow in colour and the nose reveals notes of white flowers followed by fresher jasmine flowers and a crisp and delicate citrus vein.

GW Score 4*

VALPOLICELLA 2010

Grape varieties: Corvina Veronese 70%, Rondinella 30%
Ruby red in colour, the nose shows notes of cherries, echoed by fresher hints of pepper and aromatic herbs. Whilst young it is lively and playful – delicate later on.

GW Score 4*

PALAZZO DELLA TORRE 2015

Grape varieties: Corvina Veronese 40%, Corvinone 30%, Rondinella 25%, Sangiovese 5%
This wine is elegant good aroma. Ruby red in colour with purple hues, it offers hints of raisins, vanilla, black pepper, cloves and cinnamon. Soft and velvety tannins with a long finish. The delightful aroma of raisined grapes is enhanced if the wine is served at 18° C in a large wine glass.

GW Score 5*

AMARONE 2014

Grape varieties: Corvina Veronese 45%, Corvinone 45%, Rondinella 5%, Oseleta 5%
Vintage 2014 began with a mild winter. From April onwards, the weather started to get progressively worse, culminating in a surprisingly cold and wet summer. Meticulous trimming and selection was necessary at harvest time to select grapes of sufficient quality. Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella and Oseleta are left to air dry at least until December and are then checked daily to ensure perfectly healthy grapes. This wine has structure and depth and shows mature fruit and spices – good acidity and smooth tannins.

GW Score 5*

Give this region a try and find something “just off the beaten track” that you just wouldn’t normally experience. Who wouldn’t like a christmas pudding in a wine or cracked black pepper smattered all over a dark red ! Valpolicella is is now a top ten region for me.

Click on 4 grape varieties (below) to learn more 

Corvina Veronese, CorvinoneRondinella, and Molinara.



Music Pairing 

Herbie Hancock – Gershwin’s world

GW VALPOLICELLA VINTAGE  CHART

***** MUST BUY – Invest ! YUM YUM !

**** Great to drink !

*** OK, just ok – don’t expect too much

** Little bit Lacking, be careful !!

* Avoid like the plague

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White Castle Vineyard Ltd
Llanvetherine,
Abergavenny,
Monmouthshire.
NP7 8RA

White Castle Vineyard is owned by Robb & Nicola Merchant and is situated in the beautiful rolling countryside of Monmouthshire in the village of Llanvetherine – Southern Wales. The 5-acre vineyard is planted on a south-facing slope that is ideal for growing vines and ripening grapes for this part of the country. Usually northern hemisphere vineyards need SE facing. Currently, in the UK we have close to 400 producers with 27 in Wales (2 even in Scotland)

Robb and Nicola
View down to the Barn from the vineyard

Most of the vineyards in Wales have an area just under 1 x rugby pitch size (1ha) for their vines. Whitecastle has just under double that. Not a big size by modern day standards but a great feat considering the attention it has received in recent years. Its reputation has been steadily increasing largely due to supplying major supermarket/s and producing some pretty good wines!

As well as tending to the vines Rob has also been busy restoring a 16th century Croft Barn with Lottery Funding. Seems he never stops!

After exhaustive research into vineyard management the owners decided on the most suitable grape varieties for growing and after farming the land and planting the vines the first harvest was available in September 2011 two and a half years from the initial planting (2008) 

The first harvest gained the vineyard Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) from Wine Standards, allowing the produce to be labeled Welsh Quality Wine. This is the top standard for UK wine and a great accolade for a 1styear of production.

WANT TO KNOW More. I can send you a fact-sheet about the quality control of wine. Email me thegrapewizard@gmail.com

When the vineyard reaches full production it should have the capacity to produce 12,000 bottles of wine a year, including sparkling wines.

Here is just a selection of wines from the vineyard.

Fortified Wine 1581 £25.00

Grape: REGENT

Tasting notes

Fortified wine. Deep Ruby in colour with a fragrant brambly aromas. The palette is Rich, round and smooth

Pair with Cheese, after dinner or alongside dessert.

Pinot Noir Reserve 2016 £25 

Grape: Pinot Noir 

Light and ruby coloured with a hint of vanilla, red currants and red cherries on the nose. On the palette is a big smack of blackberry and smoky vanilla

Pair with lamb, fish or pasta – might even suit Carpaccio of Ostrich!

WHITE WINE 

Gwin Gwyn 2017 £15

Grape:..

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Oatley Vineyard, Oatley Lane, Cannington, Bridgwater, Somerset TA5 2NL, UK,

wine@oatleyvineyard.co.uk

+44 (0)1278 671340

Click here to Facebook

Click here to twitter Click here to instagram

Now there’s a famous saying that you shouldn’t mention politics and religion in the same sentence whilst in the presence of friends. Times have changed…. In the run up to the exit of Europe we should be discussing and lobbying the Government on this fragile but very successful industry. Not only do we had 397 vineyards ( 27 in Wales.) But we are not currently championing home grown talent. When was the last time you went into a pub and had the choice of ordering extensive UK wine. Where is the loyalty ! Who wouldn’t want to pay £14.99 (retail) for a UK produced wine. Just this weekend (28/10/18) i went into a farm shop and although they had some UK wine and spirits products IT was a poor advert for a great industry.

British sparkling wine , however, has seen a resurgence in recent years and has even taken on Champagne producers and sparkling wine estates with great effect. UK wines are on the cusp of becoming notably international. Always been the country that produced laughable wine. Now we are a force to be reckoned with. 2018 has seen a bumper harvest. (UK Report )

Oatley vineyard is one such place. Great vineyard producing fabulous wines

Jane and Ian(below)

upsticked in 1985 from west London and moved to Somerset – Investing not only a new life but also £350 on a 1951 Ferguson T20 tractor.

What a beauty ( not the exact one but you get the idea ! )

Having had a few facelifts in its long life they used the tractor to help sow the seeds          (sorry!) for the future. In the initial days both of them worked long hours and sacrificed blood ,sweat and tears.  Vines soon flourished and 3 years later (usually the time it take vines to produce fruit (grapes)), on the 5th November 1988, the vineyard came alive.

In the early days the reward for helping with the harvest was bread and cheese for the harvest workers, now its a 4 course meal with the estates wine. Just shows how far the vineyard has come !

The vineyard is situated in the SW on England , just south of Wales. It is only 1 Ha or 2.47 acres or 1x International sized rugby pitch

(If you look at the top right of the photo you’ll see the vines)

The vineyard aims to use very little herbicides, using good husbandry to minimise the need for fungicides. To produce dry wines that reflect the vines, the place and the year both Jane and Ian

–  use minimum intervention winemaking and low levels of sulphur; –  use lower weight bottles to keep our carbon footprint low; –  use high quality traditional corks to help maintain the important mixed cork oak ecology in Portugal; –  sell mainly directly within the southwest of England: low “wine miles’; –  maintain our old vines in good health for as long as we can, keeping our traditional aromatic vine varieties; –  promote biodiversity by letting our alleys come up to seed in May and June, letting our hedges grow and maintaining a wild area next to the vineyard –  stay small and make only wines that we like to drink, from vines tended mainly by our own hands.

Their philosophy is to manage the vines meticulously so as to minimise disease through vine management and minimise artificial controls. They use no herbicides and promote biodiversity and try to have a low carbon footprint (see points above)

click to see more about carbon footprint and to see what yours is

Most years they produce two dry white wines from their two grape varieties. Kernling and Madelaine Angevine

Kernling is a white grape variety, which originated from mutation from the grape variety Kerner. Whilst Madeleine Angevine is a white wine grape from the loire valley in France. It is also popular in Germany, Kyrgyzstan and Washington State,USA. Madeleine Angevine is a fruity wine with a flowery nose similar to an Alsatian Pinot Blanc. It is crisp, acid and dry and pairs particularly well with seafoods such as crab and oyster

Oatley Vineyard’ Range  – Leonora’s and Jane’s.

“Leonora’s” wines are dry and elegant, similar to a dry Riesling in style. They can be drunk young but develop in the bottle, showing complex honey

overtones when approaching four years old or more. made from Kernling grapes, a first cross from Riesling that ripens to pink – it is the pink clone of the better-known Kerner grape.

“Jane’s” wines, from golden Madeleine Angevine grapes are light and crisp with a flower-scented nose

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Dramatic skys over Allegrini

So finally Summer is here and I am off on a long awaited trip to Italy.  I had purchased tickets to the opera festival at the open-air Arena di Verona.  This was a trip that had been on the list for quite some time and i think in such a small space of time i had been and seen as much as a cultured tourist could ! I decided I had to do something different.  Only thing – was what was out there ! Id Been to the Verona Arena to watch Carmen and I had attempted the La-passeggiata as only a Brit resembling a man from Uncle can !! so i decided there had to be more.

Looking on the map in the Agriturismo i suddenly had a lightbulb moment .  A few wine words lit up on the map – almost like clouds parting in front of my eyes – words like Negrar, Soave, Bardolino and towns that included the word “Valpolichella”.  Surely this wasn’t Amarone Country !!!! Was it ?

It most certainly was !

The (hazy ) view looking down onto Valpolicella country

With only 2 days left of a short stay  I decided to book a tasting  with Villa Allegrini

A foremost Amarone producer the Allegrini Family has been producing wine for over four hundred years and is situated in the village of Fumane di Valpolicella  and its vineyards measure 100 hectares (247 acres); or 100 International sized Rugby Pitches. The vineyards of Allegrini house their flagship wines of La Grola, Palazzo della Torre and La Poja in the following Vineyards.

Vineyards of Allegrini

1 .Corte Giara was created in 1989 in response to introducing international varietals.  young wines that can be enjoyed as easily-approachable for consumers.

2. Poggio al Tesoro founded in 2001.  70 hectares (173 acres). Produces modern, elegant wines

3. San Polo – Being located on the south-east facing slope of Montalcino, the Estate possesses an ideal terroir for the cultivation of Sangiovese, which expresses great finesse of fragrances and elegance.

Allegrini also purchased Villa Della Torre in Fumane di Valpolicella (13-1600 AD) 26 hectares (or 26 International rugby pitches).  Today it is used as the official HQ of the Company

Valpolicella is a viticultural zone of the province of Verona, Italy, east of Lake Garda. Just to the west of Venice in Northern Italy. The hilly agricultural and marble-quarrying region of small holdings north of the Adige is famous for wine production.

The red wine known as Valpolicella is typically made from 4 grape varieties:

Click on 4 grape varieties (below) to learn more 

Corvina Veronese, CorvinoneRondinella, and Molinara.

A variety of wine styles is produced in the area, including a recioto dessert wine and Amarone, a strong wine made from dried grapes.

Most basic Valpolicellas are light, fragrant table wines similar to Beaujolais nouveau and released only a few weeks after harvest. Very fresh and full of fruit characteristics -not for ageing

Valpolicella Classico is made from grapes grown in the original Valpolicella production zone.

Valpolicella Superiore is aged at least one year and has an alcohol content of at least 12 percent.

Valpolicella Ripasso is a form of Valpolicella Superiore made with partially dried grape skins that have been left over from fermentation of Amarone or recioto.

Amarone della Valpolicella, usually known as Amarone, is a rich Italian dry red wine made from the partially dried grapes of the Corvina and other approved red grape varieties (up to 25%).  Films and TV shows where the wine has played a visual role have improved the awareness of the style of wine. It is now regarded as a region that produces world class wine

The name “Valpolicella” is thought to originate from  from Latin/Greek  as the  “Valley of Cellars.”  

Seven comuni compose Valpolicella:

Pescantina, San Pietro in Cariano, Negrar, Marano di Valpolicella, Fumane, Sant’Ambrogio di Valpolicella  Sant’Anna d’Alfaedo.

The 19th century brought a series of calamities to most wine producing regions of Italy-including the phylloxera epidemic (a bug that ate European vine roots ) – wiping out 70% of vines in europe – Valpolichella was relatively unscathed.

So in summary –  over the last 100 years :

the 1950s saw the  “Amarone” style of winemaking being rediscovered.

1968  saw the Valpolicella was granted its own DOC , which led to a large expansion of vineyard areas that were permitted to produce Valpolicella DOC wine. That together with the addition of lesser quality grapes (Molinara and Rondinella) led to a drop in quality, which had a detrimental impact on not only the area’s reputation on the international wine market but also on sales and prices.

As winemaking became less profitable, the vineyards were uprooted and abandoned. This shifted the source of grape production even further away from the better quality producing hillside regions.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the Amarone wines of Valpolicella experienced a spike in popularity on the world’s wine market. Production of Amarone jumped from 522,320 US gallons in 1972 to 1.2 million gallons  by 1990.

By 2000 Amarone production grew to over 3.9 million bottles  (148,000 hl).

It was getting popular !

By this point, the price for grapes destined for Amarone production was nearly three times higher than what a comparable quantity of grapes would fetch for basic Valpolicella production. This sparked renewed interest in planting vineyards in the high altitude hillside locations that produced lower yields of grapes better suited for Amarone production.

In the 21st century, the reputation of Valpolicella wines continued to expand on the world’s wine market, as ambitious winemakers began to invest more in advanced viticultural and winemaking techniques that produce higher quality wines. In 2003, the DOC regulations were adjusted to eliminate mandatory blending requirements for sub-quality grapes such as Molinara. It had gone full circle.

What was once the reason that made Valpolicella a low quality low value wine made it in demand again into a desired want to have red region !

So my time at Allegrini was spent  visiting the HQ and  tasting four of their range of wines

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I was lucky enough to be invited to the amazing Louis Roederer estate in Reims last month, late May 2018.  Getting up early is never easy , but 4.30 AM is great time for the soul.  No Commuters, birds tweeting, the world waking up and life just about to start for the day.  Just a shame I had to walk to the Underground with my eyes shut!

No problems on the Tube and everything at Customs went quickly and efficiently. On the train, the usual business meetings are happening with lots of convivial chatter.   As I take in the Kent countryside swooshing past the window, I feel a sense of jubilation.  Louis Roederer has been on my radar for a while and finally I am on my way.  So I begin to wonder, despite the hour, if a glass of Champagne when I am offered is in fact appropriate.  I refrain this time – its still a little early. even for the GW!

It’s all thanks to Alexandra at Maisons Marques et Domaines (LR Distributor in the UK), that I am finally ticking this House off my “Tours at the Most Coveted Vineyards” bucket list.

Upon arrival  I am greeted warmly by Maria at L.R.  who gives me a fun-packed tour of  the Headquarters and what a great experience it is!  I feel like I am the kid that won the golden ticket touring the Willy Wonka factory!

It’s so great to learn more first hand about a world-class producer and especially one so respected by the industry itself.  There are many producers making unadventurous, bland champagnes for the mass consumer.  But LR is not one of them.  LR produces special wines with distinctive characteristics. What a pleasure to be here!

Louis Roederer is now managed by the seventh generation, led by Frédéric Rouzaud and is one of very few independent, family-run Houses remaining today, producing over 3.5 million bottles and shipping to over 100 countries.

 Starting out as Dubois Père & Fils in 1776,  Louis Roederer inherited and renamed his Uncle’s House in 1833.  In contrast to the practices of his time, Louis decided to invest in his own vines with the idea to master the end to end process of creating vintage wines.  Owning his own vines gave him control of quality and led to particularly distinctive characteristics, establishing L R’s reputation as one of Champagnes best producers.

By 1876, production had reached 2.5 million bottles, 10% of total production of Champagne and exporting had begun to Russia.  Viewed by many as the world’s first prestige cuvées,  Cristal was in fact created at the request of Tsar Alexander II, for exclusive consumption of the Royal Household.  It remained exclusive until 1945 when Cristal was first launched commercially for the rest of the world to enjoy!

Back in 1876 and as the political situation worsened, the Tsar feared assassination and requested that his Champagne was bottled in clear glass so that he could see the bubbles and prevent anyone hiding a bomb in the punt (GW note: a punt is a Champagne bottle’s characteristic bottom recess or hollow).   Louis Roederer commissioned a Flemish bottle maker to create a clear lead glass Champagne bottle with a flat bottom and its why today the bottle is still wrapped individually in its now distinctive yellow cellophane to protect the wine from UV light.

 From the acquisition of those first 15 hectares of vines in the Grand Cru vineyards of Verzenay in 1845, LR’s vineyards now stretch across 240 hectares or just under 600 Rugby sized pitches.  All their vintage Champagne originates from these vines  – 410 individual parcels of land to be precise.  Their distinctive characteristics are very much a product of thr provenance of each vineyard as they are able to

choose the very best grapes from any of the 3 main areas of production depending on the success of the season.

The Montagne de Reims, The Vallée de la Marne, and The Côte des Blancs. (see below)

Their Champagne involves all 3 classic grape varieties

  • Chardonnay for its minerality, finesse, and elegance;
  • Pinot Noir adds structure, complexity and is useful for ageing;
  • Pinot Meunier brings harmony and softness and a hint of rustic to certain cuvées
Last but not least the WINES !

Here I’ve listed my top 4 wines from LR. There are of course more wines to the estate but the ones that stand out for me are highlighted below.

Brut Premier

The freshness, finesse, and brightness of Brut Premier makes it the perfect wine for festive occasions. Its is structured, rich and has a good length.

After the upheavals of the First World War that destroyed more than half of the LR estate, Léon Olry Roederer reconstructed the new vineyards by buying grapes externally to ensure survival of the House during this difficult period.  He created multi-vintage wine with a consistent flavour, whatever the harvest year.

It is now called Brut Premier.

A blend of around 40% Pinot noir, 40% Chardonnay, and 20% Pinot Meunier. It is aged for 3 years in LR’s cellars and left for a minimum of 6 months after dégorgement (Removing frozen yeast after second fermentation in the bottle )

Louis Roederer Vintage

In my opinion, their flagship Champagne which best represents the LR terroir and the finesse, purity and precision of their wine-making skills is Louis Roederer Vintage

 LR uses the structure and power of the Pinot noir grapes from the Montagne de Reims (see map) to create its Cuvée Vintage. Exposed to the north-east, the grapes mature more slowly on the vine and the character of the wine intensifies and becomes more refined through ageing – if the vines were exposed to the South East it would be perfect aspect for the grapes to grow. Hence the slowing down of the maturing process

Composed of around 70% Pinot noir and 30% Chardonnay, 30% the Vintage cuvée is generally matured on lees for 4 years and left for a minimum of 6 months after dégorgement (disgorging) to attain perfect maturity.

The palate is characteristic of LR’s vintages:  a rich and winey fullness is refined by the sweetness, acidity and tight blend of the Pinot noir grapes of Verzenay. Tasting reveals sparkling suggestions of candied fruits, almond paste, toast, white chocolate, and caramel

Blanc de Blanc Vintage

This Champagne is pure and bright. Its contrasting tones range from an intense, chiselled acidity to the supple lightness of notes of fresh hazelnuts, almonds, and white flowers with accents of acacia, broom, and honeysuckle.

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In the last 10 years hectarage of planted vines in the UK has more than doubled making wine one of the fastest growing agricultural products in the UK. Visit any supermarket and you’ll discover many increasingly impressive bottles from some of the big Estates – Nyetimber, Chapel Down and Camel Valley in Cornwall to name a few.

Interest in English wine has surged along with the rise of craft beers and locally sourced produce. Customers are increasingly interested in tasting wines from lesser-known producers but who are these new winemakers?

Hence my quest – Grape Britain – to visit everyone of the 500+ English and Welsh Vineyards

Somewhere between the M3 and the south coast sits a criss-cross of country lanes, roads so entwined you easily find yourself lost. It is here in the heart of Hampshire you will find Hattingley Valley and it sits perfectly in this idyll. It was quite a sight for a Londoner – the bare branched trees forming tunnels along the roads. It had me wondering if I was on my way to Westeros.

Simon Robinson, a former lawyer, established Hattingley Valley in 2008 with the help of Emma Rice, Founder of Custom Crush, a wine analysis laboratory.  Together they have grown the vineyard into a modern, eco-friendly winery over 60 acres across two sites. Simon and Emma and their teams take pride in the quality their work and the use of the latest technology. They were the UK’s first winery to adopt solar power.

TM Michael Boudot

Ten years on, the winery has attracted a passionate and dynamic group of individuals, excited about the explosion of interest in English wines and about the prospect of working at the forefront of English wine-making.

They are separated into two distinct teams who together look after the vineyard and make the wine. The wine-making team is made up of Emma and Jacob Leadley (top photo) with help from Will Perkins (2nd Photo)

The second part of the team (vineyard team) is headed up by Lauren Merryfield (no photo) (Vineyard Manager), Roman Henrion and Tom Birkett

Everyone I spoke to was passionate about viticulture and enthusiastic to try new techniques – from new ways to provide wind and frost protection, irrigation, nutrient application and canopy management (that’s looking after every part of the vine visible above the ground).

There is a huge commitment to evaluating the Hampshire terrior and planting an experimental range of grape varieties and root stock in search of the best fruit-bearing vines.

Hattingley Valley has the potential to be one of the leading and most respected of English sparkling wines. They have already won many global awards and are a leading player in the English sparkling wine industry

The team now manages 60 acres on two well-situated sites. The vines are nurtured throughout the growing year with an environmentally sensitive approach to enhance ripeness, yield and fruit quality.

Just some of the awards Hattingley Valley has won

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