- Category: Sparkling Wine Sparkling Wine
- Published: 24 November 2018 24 November 2018
World-class sparkling wines from the South East of England would have been unspeakable within the range of my own (relatively short) lifetime, but that is no longer the case. Producers like Herbert Hall are working away, like alchemists, crafting delectable liquids from ancient soils and a relatively new, yet still in flux, climate. We dropped in to meet and taste with winemakers, Nick Hall and Kirsty Smith.
Wending our way down to Marden, in Kent, we were pleased to be invited by friends to come and sample the wines of their local vineyard, Herbert Hall. I had tasted their wines fleetingly a couple of years ago at another tasting in Kent but the day was long and my memory faded.
It’s a chilly wet wintry Friday and the landscape, even covered in rows of vines, has a T.S. Eliot bleakness to it. As we walk around the vineyard plots, owner, Nick Hall, explains that the ethos here is organic estate grown fruit, and small-batch carefully crafted wines. The varieties planted here at Herbert Hall are 40% Chardonnay and then 30% each of Pinot Noir and Meunier.
He works closely with young winemaker Kirsty Smith, who soon after winning Herbert Hall’s independently judged ‘Young Winemaker of the Year’ award, approached Nick and handed him her zero-option-you-must-employ-me contract. The rest is in the process of making liquid history!
Garagiste Modus Operandi
Our arrival in early November meant that all the hard harvest and pressing work was now firmly behind us. The assortment of steel tanks and barrels packed into this modest structure stamp Herbert Hall with a true garagiste style. With one upturned barrel positioned for tasting, the excitement levels were up and the wintry blues dispelled.
The first base Chardonnay wine we taste from the tank is bursting with fruit and bright acidity. It is only a hairline from being desirable in its current state as a still wine. Herbert Hall produces no still wines, only sparklers, and because of lees contact and barrel ageing, the style is finely textured, structured, yet preserving the freshness of fruit and overall mouthfeel. Dosage is low at 7g/ltr, just enough to balance the wines.
Harbert Hall Brut 2015 - (assemblage: 40% Ch. 30% PN 30% PM) light golden colour, a slight push of fruit sweet, tropical aromas. A lovely creamy texture in the mouth, the fruit carries well with other delicate complex flavours.
Herbert Hall Rosé 2015 - The same classic blend of the three grapes but with more pinot noir. Pale pink colour, with a compote of ripe summer fruit nose. Creamy texture which works well with the fruit character; very moreish!
Herbert Hall Rosé 2014 - The same blend as above, but less overt on the summer fruit, giving us an elegant alluring sweet and savoury perfume. A different profile to the 2015 with more subtlety and complexity. Taste of apple, cherry, red fruits, dry, long and very satisfying. I was developing a severe case of one-more-glass-syndrome until…
… a half bottle emerged from the fridge, unlabelled, opened and poured (it was labelled for the photo!).
Herbert Hall Brut 2013 - I didn’t note the exact percentages of each variety of grape but this was my show stopper. Open aroma of crisp apple, pear and watermelon, combined with seductive emerging autolytic character. To taste is alive, young and dancing. Great structure, rich, complex flavours carrying over from the aromas but really pronounced on the palate. Also, the half bottle-pocket-size is very cool (much more so than hip flask!).
To summarise in brief, these are great sparklers and well worth getting hold of. Of course, small production means stock limitations, but with years like 2018 beefing up the volume, and an increasing number of variable quality wines hitting the market, make sure Herbert Hall is on your English hit list.
*Special thanks to Toby and Kate for arranging/inviting, and a huge thank you to Nick and Kirsty for receiving us.
Stockists include Harrods, Fortnum & Mason and Lea & Sandeman
London restaurant and bar listings include Le Caprice, Langan's, The Ivy, J.Sheekey, 67 Pall Mall Club, Annabel's Nightclub, and others
Find out more about Herbert Hall on their website.
Discord in Odesa; pruning at Shabo goes on!
Last week a picture was posted on Twitter of vines in Shabo, a large estate that lies to the west of Odesa on southern Ukraine’s Black Sea coastline. The image seemed benign at face value but the reality, of course, is that the city of Odesa has been bracing itself for attack by Russian forces.
An aperitif by the coliseum
As COVID-19 conspires with the grimmest of winds and rain to force a societal retreat behind our own front doors, the word ennui springs to mind. The muddle of displeasure is pierced when Natalia hands me a large bulbous glass of a liquid I do not recognise.
Artichoke pasta and very fine Pigato
Britain’s lamentable exit
On the eve of Britain’s official departure from the EU, my partner and I decided to explore a small town on the Italian Riviera where thewintry cold doesn’t feel so much like cold war bite.
I had warned my significant other that I would be having an inverse departure party, a release of the sanity valve if you like!
Soave: volcanic wines with elegance and longevity
Sitting inside the ancient castle walls inside the town of Soave, a short drive from Verona in northern Italy, the unique slightly almond aroma of the indigenous grape, Garganega, rises gently from my glass. The castle sprawls up the side of an extinct volcano that gives the region its variant soil structures that mark out the better quality of Soave wines.
An American In Paris; Tanisha Townsend (@GirlMeetsGlass) discusses podcasts, Paris wine bars, & what she's drinking at the moment
Tanisha Townsend decided to move to Paris 4 years ago after regularly passing through the city en route to the world’s most famous vineyards. In fact, it was about 2 years ago at the Printemps de Champagne Bouzy Rouge tasting in Reims that I saw (who we shall now refer to as) GirlMeetsGlass chirpily speaking to her web followers on Snapchat.
Wine tasting in Galicia: The pilgrims search for Albarino
The cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, the final resting place of Saint James, rises out of the landscape, infested with antiquity. The rambling steep streets give way to shafts of dramatic light, emblazoned chapels, and tightly packed tapas bars, dusty, as old novels pressed together in antiquarian bookshops.