A Royal wedding – the most important English sparkling wine showcase of the year
Part wedding planning guide, part sparkling wine style critique, part know your audience brief – this month’s article has been written for two people only – Meghan and Harry. The rest of you can keep an eye on your letterboxes, hoping that the invitation is delivered soon, because this will be the best wedding ever if the royal couple follow my tips and it would obviously be the perfect way for you to taste my three recommended wines too.
I assume that Harry and Meghan will not adopt ‘top table’ approach and keep all of my recommended Sugrue Pierre Dr Brendan O’Regan to themselves, but I worry that stocks of this wine are limited, so if they would like to drink it, then perhaps this is one for the toast, the morning after and also the honeymoon, too. Either way it is the best fizz in the country right now, so they ought to place an order.
The Exton Park is my chosen wine of choice for the wedding lunch. It is refreshing enough to serve with canapés and yet it has enough oomph to cope with Coronation Chicken, Suprême de Volaille (Charles and Diana’s pick) or South Uist salmon and Hebridean langoustines (currently the favourites with the bookies). It is a beautiful and also eye-catching wine and it has the benefit of being a flavour that will impress all tastes.
My final pick is the least expensive, but it shows that you sacrifice nothing in presentation or flavour if you maintain ruthlessly high standards. My present to the happy couple is the knowledge that Greyfrairs’s Sparkling Cuvée actually exists. Yes, a wine, under twenty quid, which is fit for a Prince and his bride, and everybody else in the country who is planning a celebration this year.
NV Greyfriars, Sparkling Cuvée
Greyfriars Vineyard, Surrey
There is a special skill in assembling, packaging and releasing a knockout sparkling wine, made in the traditional method, but for sale under £20. Greyfriars has nailed this challenge with flying colours in all three departments. Made from 42.5% Chardonnay, 42.5% Pinot noir and 15% Pinot meunier and with a pert 5 g/l of dosage on board, this is not your everyday, budget fizzy. It is an over-engineered, stunningly dressed, dramatically-poised wine with a crowd-pleasing, pin-sharp, floral flavour and a lovely, long, bright finish. I don’t know of any other bottle in the country which can perform at this level, while affording you the opportunity to buy it in truckloads for whatever celebration is on your horizon. Perhaps not truckloads – only 9000 bottles were made, but that is surely enough for Meghan and Harry’s shindig?
MV Sugrue Pierre, ‘Cuvée Dr Brendan O’Regan’
I first encountered this wine as a cleanskin sample in among no less than 120 other bottles last August. It stopped me in my tracks and at the end of the tasting I could only think of one wine. I had to find out what it was immediately. The parcel tag attached to its neck had dissolved in the ice bucket, but it was delivered by winemaking dynamo Dermot Sugrue (on his bicycle) and he was quick to phone me and elaborate on the story behind the inspiration for this wine. I am certain that it is the most profound, complex and rewarding English sparkling wine that I have ever tasted. Dermot has dedicated this wine to his granduncle who established the world’s first Duty Free at Shannon Airport in Ireland. A multi-vintage blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot noir, with careful use of oak underpinning its epic flavours, this is not a flamboyant sparkler, but a honed, balanced and superbly long creation. It is a masterclass in blending different wines together to make the sum far greater than the whole.
NV Exton Park,
Pinot Meunier Rosé
If I am to part with a fairly hefty sum of money, I would like to have my taste buds rewarded and also feel like I am drinking something rather special or rare. There are precious few Pinot meunier rosés made in the sparkling wine world and so if this was a faddy wine or an attempt at something quirky I would be the first to point out its limited appeal. But Exton Park’s beautifully coral-tinged rosé is so much more. For a start, the perfume is exceptional. Rosé sparklers must smell ‘rosé’ for me otherwise there is no point in making them. This wine has an ethereal perfume of rosehips, and cherry stones with a touch of spice. Dry and lively (6.5 g/l) on the palate it doesn’t slip into sloppiness like so many other rosés, maintaining its grip and verve all the way to the finish. It is an inspired piece of winemaking which surpasses its promise and that is why it is worth every penny.