Bring a bit of sparkllng into your life
Roughly two-thirds of English wine is sparkling, and, believe it or not, is world-class. It receives international awards in blind tastings against Grande Marque champagnes; you will find it at state banquets and in high-class Michelin-starred restaurants. Only last month a major Champagne house, Taittinger, invested in a new vineyard at nearby Chilham. Currently most of the best sparklers are produced in the south of England. 26 million years ago France was joined to the UK when a huge earthquake forced the two countries apart, leaving chalk and greensand soils both in the south of England and Champagne.
So, who are the frontrunners? Nyetimber, Ridgeview and Camel Valley. Locally we are lucky enough to have Chapel Down, Gusborne, Hush Heath and my personal favourite Herbert Hall. This is a four acre vineyard in Marden on farmland that used to belong to Nick Hall’s grandfather. The wine is made by Nick, with the able assistance of Kirsty Smith, a Plumpton College graduate. The Brut is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir, and I would classify it as slightly off dry, with great purity of fruit, price £26.10. The pale salmon-pink Rosé is a light red-fruits compote, drier than the Brut, floral with a balanced acidity and soft mousse, price £27.00. Before Christmas I took a bottle of the Brut Blanc to France, and it was the sparkling wine of choice in a blind tasting versus a French Cremant and a small grower’s Champagne.
Back in 2008 Stephen Skelton, a Master of Wine and one of the foremost authorities on vineyard soils in the UK, wrote: “I hope we can make a change from what was once considered as a joke into a sustainable industry”. Well, the industry is up and running with many vines are still to produce fruit, so the future looks bright.
Happy New Year to all you. Next month German wines - my Mother used to bathe in Blun Nun! Please send in further requests.
Tracy Claridge TLClaridge@TLClaridge.co.uk