We paid a visit to our local Enomatic wine dispenser to celebrate English Wine Week. It’s a machine I have used before, but Janet hadn’t. It’s a brilliant machine really, but it can be a little difficult to get used to. Janet managed somehow to dispense an English white right into the sleeve of her jacket. I suppose if you’re going to be wet to the elbow during a tasting, you could do worse than Three Choirs Midsummer Hill.
Janet had actually never tasted any English wines before, and so perhaps came to the tasting with fewer preconceived notions of what was going to be on offer. We started with the sparkling wines, and unfortunately tasted the one we ended up liking best first. The 2010 Ridgeview Fitzrovia Rosé was truly delicious: salmony pink, crisp, and missing that aggressive hit of acid you so often find in English wines, whether sparkling or still. Tasting this one first probably made it harder to like the two sparkling wines that followed, which were still both very good. The 2011 Ridgeview Bloomsbury had a more typical level of acidity. Janet said to her it was like getting to the centre of a sherbet lemon, harsh but not unpleasant (especially if you like sherbet lemons, as she does). The 2009 Nyetimber Brut Classic Cuvée was less biting, but still had a bit too much acid for our tastes after having tasted the Ridgeview Fitzrovia Rosé.
Some of the still white wines were available to taste in two vintages, which was a treat. When we tried the Three Choirs Midsummer Hill 2012 and 2013, they both had a grapefruit aroma and flavour, but the acidity was markedly less in the 2012, which has had time to mellow a bit. The same was true of the Chapel Down Pinot Blanc 2010 and 2011, with the 2010 being noticeably smoother, and tart without the intense burst of acid, whereas the 2011 was quite grapefruity again.
We didn’t rate the rest of the English still wines very highly. The 2013 Chapel Down Bacchus was almost completely colourless and was acidic again, but with more gooseberry than grapefruit flavour. The 2013 Three Choirs Rosé has a crisp, but somewhat generic light berry flavour, perhaps lightly strawberry. The 2013 Three Choirs Stone Brook was a bit nondescript in flavour.
We also tasted some of the non-English wines that were featured. For summer barbecues, the 2013 De Martino Gallardía del Itata Cinsault would be absolutely fantastic, and would be excellent chilled. It had a light colour, good length and a nice bit of pepper at the end that just made you think of sausages and burgers and blue skies. The 2012 Silbador Carmenère was rich and spicy and you could hardly imagine anything better with a steak. The aroma of the Society’s Montepulciano d’Abruzzo immediately evokes Italy, or at least the best Italian reds you’ve drunk in your life. Janet thought it was fabulous, which I thought a little strange because there were quite perceptible tannins and she usually dislikes that. In this case the tannins were so balanced that the end result was not mouth-drying, but rounded and rich.
The wines we liked less on the day were the 2011 Brouilly Pisse Vieille Durand, which was a very light wine, as you’d expect from Beaujolais, but just didn’t fare well against the other wines we were tasting at the time. Janet said I actually winced at my first taste of the 2012 Hilltop Corvinus Hungarian Red, athough she said she could easily drink a glass or two, and the 2012 Cabardès, Château de Pennautier was quite oaky, smokey, and cedary, and although not to our palates, it’s a fantastic wine with plenty of depth and character.
We were delighted to see sloe gin available for tasting as well. We make it ourselves every autumn and are quite proud of the results, although the commercial bottle for tasting was, to be quite honest, nearly as good. Delicious, sweet and smooth, with that amazing fruity flavour you get from the sloes and none of the taste of the gin at all. Our latest batches of sloe gin have some bottles made with gin and others with vodka, simply to see if the kind of alcohol makes any difference at all.
In the end, it was a great selection of wines from England and elsewhere that we were lucky to try. If we had been buying last night, we would have been happy to take home bottles of Ridgeview Fitzrovia Rosé, Chapel Down Pinot Blanc 2010, and Three Choirs Midsummer Hill 2012 for our English Wine Week celebrations (and probably 2013 De Martino Gallardía del Itata Cinsault, 2012 Silbador Carmenère, and the Society’s Montepulciano d’Abruzzo for other summer occasions). Oh, and we might well buy a bottle of the sloe gin too, just to tide us over until ours is ready.