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Saturday, 9 July 2011

English Wines at IWC Taste of Gold‏


It would have been highly unpatriotic of me not to try a couple of the English Gold Medal wines at this IWC Taste of Gold event and besides, I am in friendly competition with US wine blogger Rob Tereau who writes Fringe Wine to see who can try the most obscure wines and I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity for some bragging rights lightly.

I started with a Denbies still rosé from little-known early-ripening hybrid grape, Rondo. Named after and grown on a Chalk Ridge it has a flinty, smokey slightly herbaceous nose that is very impressive.

On the palate the acidity is very prominent, but feels rounded, refreshing and mouthfilling rather than harsh. The finish is crisp and mineral and it is very dry.

This would make a great picnic wine for a hot summer's day or even an aperitif, but almost certainly needs to be paired with food of some sort due to the prominent but lovely acidity and minerality.

English wine has something of a hard time as it is somewhat underappreciated, suffers from a generally weak reputation and is not cheap to make in our highly marginal climate.

Ironically, a weak pound actually helps matters in some ways as English wines thereby improve in value compared to those made in Euro-land, but at £11.99, this doesn't feel like the easiest of sells.

It is available from the cellar door at the Denbies Estate.

The second wine I tried was from Chapel Down and perhaps even more unusual - even if the grape is rather more familiar; a 100% Pinot Noir sparkler.

Pinot Noir is not an easy grape to grow anywhere - and its spiritual home of Burgundy is a long way from southern England; it is also grown further north in chilly Champagne to add colour and weight to fizz and, yes, there are some Blanc de Noirs (white fizz made solely from red-wine grapes), so there is some precedent and a logic to making a pinkish sparkler from Pinot Noir in England.

A very pale salmon-pink, it had a fine mousse, good acidity and felt elegant with a dry finish. I am becoming increasingly aware of the effects of aeration on wine and this, just opened, had a taut, fresh-from-the-bottle feel.

Subsequent sips showed more rounded complexity and I can't help wishing I'd got to try a bit of the previous bottle rather than the first of the new.

At £24.99 from Chapel Down's cellar door, it is of course not cheap, but is very much at the lower end of the price range for a pink Champagne-method fizz from a Champenois grape variety.

Recommended wine

Both wines here are very good, of course and neither is in the everyday bracket. However, the recommendation goes to the fizz for the sheer bragging rights of being able to serve an award-winning pink English Pinot Noir fizz.

My entry ticket was provided by Naked Wines.

Links

Denbies - http://www.denbies.co.uk/

Chapel Down - http://www.englishwinesgroup.com/

IWC Taste of Gold - http://goldmedal.internationalwinechallenge.com/

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