The annual WineGB (English and Welsh) tasting in London was bursting at the seams with new producers keen to share the liquid fruits of their labour. Taster, SCOTTIE GREGORY, highlights two producers with stars in their eyes.
I know that when it comes to British wine, I have been prejudiced, at times in the past, by believing that British wines would do, if there was not the “real thing” available. In more recent years I had acknowledged that we could produce good sparkling wines, not imitations but standing in their own right, with their own style. I had not as yet, tasted a still wine that I really liked and rated so that I was very keen to go to the WGB tasting hoping that I could be re-educated. Joyously I was!
The first misconception dismissed was that I did not like “Bacchus”. I did like their Bacchus. Cat’s pee is so often used to describe New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, I know, but to me Bacchus and Seyval Blanc twenty years ago, always tasted as cat’s pee smelled, but not in a nice way.
Woodchester Valley Bacchus (2017) was aromatic, with hints of gooseberry, tropical fruits and elderflower, complimented by minerality. It was extremely long on the palate so that I was glad that the next wine tasted was Orpheus Bacchus (2017), which was a more full bodied version, extremely rounded and well balanced and so did not have to compete for room on my taste buds.
Culver Hill (2018) is blend of Seyval Blanc, Bacchus, Pinot Gris and Ortega (the latter I had only experienced as a Spanish offering). Again the Seyval Blanc and Bacchus content did not deter me, as I found the wine nicely balanced, with hints of stoned fruits and a twist of lime, accompanied by gentle minerality. This is a good quaffing wine for parties.
However, their star for me was Woodchester Valley Blanc de Blancs 2015, a wonderfully refreshing fizz that I could drink all day. It was biscuity, tasting of apples with a touch of citrus and so nicely balanced.
This wine would be great for a summer’s day party or better still for Boxing Day, when something refreshing is needed to counteract the richness of the food and wine of Christmas Day’s festivities.
The highlight of my day was being introduced to the Simpsons and their amazing chardonnays – Gravel Castle and Roman Road, both 2018. I never imagined that such luscious wines could be produced in the UK. I had tasted other English chardonnays in the past and found it difficult to pick up any familiar notes. But the two from the Simpsons produced all the sensory stimuli with which an exceptional chardonnay rewards the palate.
I just loved the buttery-ness of Gravel Castle. It might have persuaded me that it had come from Cote de Beaune in a blind tasting. It displayed delicious floral notes with peach and citrus added to a pleasant minerality. The fruit was perfectly balanced with acidity. This wine is one for the opulent dinner party. I would love it with turbot stuffed with lobster or even pasta with a creamy dill sauce with lobster, scallops and prawns that I cook from time to time. Gravel Castle conjures that feel-good factor that makes me want to go back for more!
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Roman Road that I gather is the Simpson "star" still wine, was suggested as a competitor to Chablis. I can see the reason why. Leaner than Gravel Castle, with greater flintiness and more citrus and pear, although still having peach/ tropical / floral undertones, it did in part suggest Chablis. Perhaps the wonderful summer sunshine of 2018 gave it a more rounded flavour and slight buttery-ness that made me think more of Cote de Beaune. However, it all added up to an amazing wine that would enhance any seafood dish, be it shell or scale. Roman Road is an elegant wine to serve your guests and unless you told them, I feel sure that they would not guess that it had been produced in these climes.
The good news is that both wines are reasonably priced. If you sought similar quality in Burgundy it might cost double the price. So one of the first obstacles to buying British wine quoted to me by my fellow countrymen, “The wine is good but I am not sure it is value for money,” is demolished
The Simpson’s passion and enthusiasm for their wine production is rewarded by the quality and sumptuousness of the end product – wines that are not copies of French wines, but stand out in their own right, as wines to beat.
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