As I have declared many times before, I’m a big advocator of English Wine (the link will take you to much of my chatter around the subject). I have therefore been extremely excited to have been able to get in on the act and add 2 award-winning examples of English Sparkling Wine to the PFW portfolio; Bluebell Vineyard Estates Hindleap Seyval Blanc (white) and their Brut Rosé (pink, obviously).
I discovered Bluebell Vineyard Estates’ Hindleap on the English Wine Producers stand at the London International Wine Fair this summer. This was the first time that I’d tasted a lot of English wine in one place and it was the general quality of the sparkling rosé that really caught my attention, and this is coming from someone who often finds pink fizz a bit sweet and generally sticks to white. Many of the big players were presenting their wines there, such as Henners and Hush Heath Estates (well known for their Balfour Brut Rosé) and I remember how well the Hindleap Brut Rosé stood up to those from these considerably more expensive producers. I also got to meet the charming wine maker, Kevin and I was left with a lasting impression of both the wine and the team.
My very first PFW sparkling wine tasting featured all 4 of the Hindleap wines amongst the 8 sparkling wines tasted. Not only did the ‘Classic Cuvee‘, made from a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier (the traditional Champagne grapes), stand its ground against the Pierre Paillard Champagne, the Seyval Blanc, a dry, crisp and creamy wine, went down a storm with the tasting panel. The Seyval Blanc grape is very suited to the climate in England and produces wines with some beautiful body and acidity that can stand up to spicy food (see another Seyval post here) as well as complement cakes and puddings. A fresher fizz than Champagne, without the biscuit-yeastiness, more suited to the taste buds of a Prosecco lover, I chose this wine over the Classic Cuvee – afterall, I stock a Champagne, so wanted something a bit different. English wine is consistently compared directly with Champagne and it shouldn’t have to taste like Champagne to be good. Having just been award a Silver Award at the International Wine Challenge (and Bronze at Decanter), we were not alone with our judgement.
The Decanter Silver Medal winning Brut Rosé in many cases came out as the favourite wine of the tasting, I’ll just add, as chosen by both the female and male tasters. A fabulously dry and complex sparkling wine, with no hint of that ‘sickly’ expectation that comes with so many pink sparkling wines. To quote the Bluebell Estate’s Vineyard tasting notes, just because I couldn’t put it better myself;
‘Pale salmon in the glass with exuberant mousse and persistent corona; wild strawberries, rose petal, cranberry and soft smoke on the nose; succulent orange zest, creamy peach, zingy freshness and clean crispiness on the palate; good length and poise.’
So off I went, spur-of-the-moment, one Friday afternoon in December to pick up my first consignment of Hindleap, direct from the vineyard in East Sussex. Once I’d left the motorway, I pretty much followed the path of the Bluebell Railway into the depths of the countryside to find the Bluebell Estate Vineyard, an unassuming collection of farm buildings housing the winery, office and, much to the delight of my 2 year old son, a selection of tractors and other vine-tending machinery. There’s no trendy and smart tasting room that you might find at some of the more commercial vineyards, and I like that, as to me it means that the attention and detail is going into the wine and the price reflects what’s in the bottle. We were welcomed warmly by Cathy, Kevin and Andy (I think in disbelief that I’d driven the 170 mile round trip via the M25 on a Friday afternoon at such late notice), shown around the vineyard and allowed to sit on the tractors. We loaded up and, not before being licked heartily by a herd of enormous golden retrievers, were waved off on our way back home.
The very next day, I then got to share the love of Hindleap with the wine drinkers of Maidenhead who embraced both wines wholeheartedly, so much so that they bought the lot. Don’t worry though, my Hindleap stocks have been replenished and I hope to only add to my English selection, specifically still wines, this year. Do let me know if you have any English favourites and I can see if I can source some. Perhaps Gusbourne (as seen on the BBC’s ‘Twelve Drinks of Christmas‘ with Giles Coren and Alexander Armstrong) would be so kind to let me, along with Harvey Nics and Fortnums, stock their Guinevere (Chardonnay) and Pinot Noir, (the latter of which I’m yet to try but if it’s half as good as the Chardonnay, I’m in).
It’s at this point I’d like to thank Cathy and Andy for dealing with my last minute requests so kindly on more than one occasion, as well as the M25 for running so smoothly on that first run, it was obviously meant to be! For more information on the Bluebell Vineyard Estates, have a look at their website here. Also, if an English wine tasting would be something of interest to you, drop me a line.