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In England`s green and pleasant land ….

William Blake would barely recognise his England today – at least, not in wine terms. The last thirty years has seen more change than the previous two centuries. This can be attributed to Climate change, and to the investment in winemaking as a reaction to it. Forty years ago, I was a young member of the English Vineyard Association and typically English vineyards were of the Muller Thurgau, Huxelrebe, Bacchus, Reichensteiner, and Dornfelder grape varieties.  These were of German origin, wine grapes which ripened well even in England.  We also grew the French red wine grape, Pinot Noir, back then, but as a variety it barely ripened sufficiently to make good wine, quite honestly. I helped make a Pinot Noir wine in 1980. I was with a small team cultivating a 10-acre vineyard just north of Ipswich, in Otley, with our own small winery. I can smell it now! Although I recall we were delighted by the result, the descriptors “tart” and “rhubarb” tell you something of its nature! Fast forward ten years, a fraction of a fraction of a degree warmer, such wines were still barely ripe, but on a journey. Jump another thirty years, and the best of today`s Pinot Noirs are “deliciously tangy” (our Rabbit Hole Pinot Noir by Simpsons, in Sussex, “tangy dark cherry, smoky, ground coffee”). Yet, arguably, the best of Pinot Noir is reserved for England`s sparkling wine production, for which French Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier grapes are grown here as well now. The three Champagne grapes.   Certainly, Chardonnay would have struggled to reach phenolic ripeness in England even a decade ago, and though Pinot Meunier has been around, in England it`s mostly been in a mutated form, one which achieves phenolic ripeness earlier.  For me, the best producers of sparkling wines are Simpsons, Hattingley, Nyetimber, and Rathfinny.  Best overall achievement goes to the mighty Simpsons, not least for their latest, 2020 vintage Roman Road Chardonnay. An excellent example grown on the chalk terroir of Kent`s North Downs.

 

 

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