23-06-2016

English still wines, on the other hand

Given that today is the so-called, “Brexit” vote, it’s probably only fitting to talk a bit more about the wines of England that I tasted during the ICCWS 2016 in Brighton. After all, if the UK votes to leave the EU they could very well be drinking a lot more of their own wines in due course.

In terms of English sparkling wines, there seems to be a rather bright future. What started out as a niche production from the likes of Breaky Bottom has grown in to a quite mature and in the case of Nyetimber, Wiston, and a few others, a very fine type of sparkling wine.

When it comes to the still wines however, it’s a very, very different beast and a great deal of work is being done in this segment. I attended a tasting that was led by well-known (at least in England and Europe) wine writer, Oz Clarke. Oz sang the praises of these English wines to great extent and by great, I think that Oz gave his life’s opus in talking them up. It was a passionate and refined speech, singing about the upward evolution of the wines from his homeland from a man who has dedicated his life to wine.

Unfortunately I felt that many of the wines didn’t live up to the praise. At my table there was an Australian winemaker from Tasmania and then a Finnish sommelier who had their own ideas when it came to the details of the wines but one of the main things we agreed upon was that Bacchus was really not for us. Despite being a Silvaner/Riesling cross with Müller-Thurgau, the final wine seems to be summed up as: if you like Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, then this grape will be your bicycle. If you like Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre, then this isn’t for you. The styles can vary wildly on it, but a gooseberry quality seemed present in all the wines as well as the occasional massive, crunchy punch of acidity.

While Bacchus is a modern hybrid, it’s not surprising that of the grapes that showed promise where some of the classics and this will probably increase as temperatures continue to increase in the UK. Both the Gusbourne Pinor Noir 2014 and the Bolney Estate “Foxhole” Pinot 2014 were trembling with future potential. Aromatically, they’re quite excellent. What was lacking was perhaps a bit of structure in the body leaving them a bit flat in the mouth.

This seemed to be something of a problem in general as when each winemaker talked about their wines, they said that some grapes came in with sugar to reach a potential alcohol of 8% ABV but the final wine we tasted was at 12%. What is this magic? For those who aren’t familiar, it’s called, Chaptalization or basically adding in sugar to the wines at fermentation to increase the final alcohol. Small amounts can be undetectable but I’ve found that large amounts like what was seen in some of these wines can create a disconnected wine wherein everything seems correct on paper but in sensory analysis, it’s just “odd”.

Despite my mixed feelings about this tasting (and one would say rather pessimistic when compared to the sparkling tasting) I think that there is indeed a future for still wines in England. It’s going to take some time to get there but given what we’re seeing in terms of Climate Change and the various people from all over the world striving to get the ducks in a row with English viticulture, they’ll arrive there and will arrive there at some point very soon.

WINES

Ancestral Wine Cellar - Khikhvi 2014 95
First harvest of Khikhvi. Light apricot notes, peach skin, lemon peel. Citric in the mouth, fresh, lively acidity, vibrant. Very holistic, full and deliciously good.
100% Khikhvi · 12% · 30GEL
95 3 Stars

Petriaant Marani - Khikhvi 2015 94
Bruised red apple, touch of lemon peel, limestone minerality, and some white pepper notes at the back of it. High acidity and full in the mouth. Luscious, involving, elegant wine.
100% Khikhvi · 14% · 25GEL
94 3 Stars

Domaine Augustin - Adéodat Blanc 2016 93
Lemon and white peach, strong kick of salinity, and toasted notes. Very fleshy and full on the palate, peach notes more prominent as well as Meyer lemon, medium plus acidity and a lengthy finish.
100% Grenache Gris · 14.5% · 20EUR
93 2 Stars

AA Badenhorst - Secateurs Red Blend 2012 93
Forest bramble with ripe red fruit, touches of cherry, ripe red plum, tiny bit of prune, cumin, anise, black licorice, wet cement mineral note, underlying fig jam. Crisp medium plus acidity, medium tannins, medium plus length, medium alcohol, overall medium plus body that’s ripe and lively but super fresh and balanced at the same time. Bit of rugged wildness to it but doesn’t get out of hand. Easy to drink but with just enough underlying complexity so that it stays interesting.
56% Syrah 27% Cinsaut 6% Grenache 4% Cabernet Sauvignon 7% "Others" · 13.5% · 12EUR
93 2 Stars

Domaine Treloar - Motus 2015 93
Dark ruby, minor rim. Big, mighty bouquet of red cherry and other brambly forest fruit, vanilla, almond blossom, orange peel, and cocoa. Rich and full on the palate with a wealth of tannins still integrating, leading into a crunchy, lingering finish.
80% Mourvèdre 10% Syrah 10% Grenache · 14% · 14EUR
93 2 Stars

Domaine of the Bee - Cuvée 2015 93
Ruby with minor garnet rim. Rich red fruits with an underpinning of ripe plum, orange peel, licorice, cocoa. Broad, round tannins with a touch of toast and sweet cocoa in a long finish. Manages to stay very light on the palate despite the higher alcohol.
50% Grenache 50% Carignan · 15% · 25EUR
93 2 Stars

Tchotiashvili - Khikhvi 2014 93
Apricot, yellow peach, orange peel, and a touch of honey. Quite complex aromatically. Orchard fruit much more prevalent in the mouth with young apricot notes. Rich and elegant, touch of astringency in the finish.
100% Khikhvi · 13.1% · 28GEL
93+ 3 Stars

Domaine Augustin - Adéodat Rouge 2015 92
Medium ruby. Fresh red cherry, raspberry, and young strawberry, lifted and breathy, saline tinge along with light stoniness and rosemary and garrigue. Fresh red fruit on the palate, medium acidity but still light on the palate, fresh, and while the alcohol sticks out a little, holds and excellent, long finish.
Grenache Carignan Mourvèdre · 14.5% · 20EUR
92 2 Stars

Domaine Fontanel - Prieuré 2014 92
Dense ruby with brick flecks. Crisp red fruits, lifted by a waft of volatility making for a light nose with a spicy licorice and leather component. Crisp and lively with red cherry fruit in the mouth and a nudge over medium acidity. Nice, lingering finish.
50% Syrah 25% Grenache 25% Mourvèdre · 14.5%
92 2 Stars

Cave Abbé Rous - Cornet & Cie Blanc 2016 92
Peach, orange peel & blossom, honey, dried apricot, and a hint of green apple. Very nicely balance in the mouth, green apple notes more prevalent, medium plus acidity and a lengthy finish. Fresh, lively, very pleasing wine to drink.
60% Grenache Gris 25% Grenache Blanc 5% Marsanne 5% Roussanne 5% Vermentino · 14.5%
92 2 Stars