Monday, 30 May 2011

A walk through the English vineyards

South of England is more and more attracting interest and attentions of sparkling wines lovers.
The everyday-warmer climate, the good soil and the hard work of some people, strongly believing in the idea of producing high quality English wines, made this dream reality, and now these wines are often awarded more than Champagnes in international competitions.
I have to say that I am not writing this post following the beginning of the English Wines Week, or the gossips about  Barak Obama drinking them at Buckingham palace and Camilla's declarations on the subject. Last Saturday I actually had the unexpected chance to visit a couple of wineries in Mid Sussex, and a walk through their vineyards.

One of them the Court Garden Farm is a very small one with the vineyards planted only 6 years ago. It is owned by Howard a funny retired architect who took us around and explained about the grapes and the hard work in the fields. One week ago he had to get up during the night to light the candles in the vineyards as the temperature had gone down!
He organises tours every Saturday and will take you around and finish with a couple of glasses. The sparkling wine we tasted there was a 2008 vintage, his first vintage, and even if not the best sparkling I had in my life it was certainly enjoyable, fresh, not that much yeasty (which I personally appreciated), with strong citrusy flavours but also balanced and elegant. Howard has also some German red varieties that he mainly use for his rose' , but unfortunately the one we tasted (more an experiment than a proper wine to be sold) was not great: a lot of peach at the nose and not enough flavours in the mouth.

The second winery we visited is one of the best known of England. Ridgeview estate is a family ran business. They have around 30 acres of 16 years old vineyards. Their production is growing as fast as their popularity and they decided to buy more grapes from other producers unlike Nyetimber that prefers to buy land and grow their own fruit. Our guide was James who owns his vineyards management business and takes care of the Ridgeview vineyards. We had a chat about the issues of applying organic viticulture in England, the difficulties of this latest dry year and all the processes of vinification A sparkling wine requires a long, careful and scrupulous work; this is one of the reasons of their high prices. And it's something most people doesn't know!
We finally tasted a couple of their productions and the elegance of these wines would definitely surprise any skeptical people ( as I was few years ago).

Before closing this brief (well, I know not that brief!) post on English wines I'd like to leave you with a picture...this is where the grapes are at this moment of the year....
...still a long way to taste this vintage!