I absolutely love an advert that popped up on the telly the other day. It is for a business called Workday – an enterprise management cloud. 

While I have no idea what an enterprise management cloud is, this cunning business is undoubtedly firing up interest in its activities with its ‘Rock Star’ adverts, including five iconic rockers: Gary Clark Jr., Billy Idol, Joan Jett, Ozzy Osbourne, and Paul Stanley. As the ad points out, we are all too lazy when flagrantly using this elite term of appreciation. 

I, too, have been guilty of using ‘Rock Star’ incorrectly in the past. I have even used this expression as a lazy descriptor – ‘this is a rock star of a wine’ – although it has to be a wine of precisely the correct style to warrant admiration of this exalted level. So it got me thinking, who are our very own (not) Rock Stars who make wines worthy of this moniker? 

I have recently tasted a couple of wines that are so arresting, opinionated, and memorable that I think they genuinely fit the bill, and you will not be surprised to read that they form the heart of this month’s article. And then something hilarious happened. I was catching up with some pals when they told me, in hushed tones, about Alex James’s recent exploits in wine. 

I know this epicurean expert has augmented his stellar musical career with a life in cheese, but furthering his remit into wine was somewhat of a scoop. And the timing could not be more compelling. My third wine this month is a genuine Rock Star wine; for once, this term can be used correctly by one and all! 

NV BritPop, Sparkling Wine

£25.00 www.laithwaites.co.uk

Blur bassist Alex James is no stranger to Rock, and he is already a Star in both the music and the cheese world. He is also the curator of one of the UK’s favourite music, food and drinks events – The Big Feastival. 

A eureka moment inspired him to develop his BritPop brand into a wine label. As a SouthWest-living-and-loving man, he asked Ian Edwards at Jurassic Coast-based Furleigh Estate to help him realise his dream. 

Furleigh makes superb wine under its own label as well as assisting Bride Valley (among others) to make some of the most exciting wines in the country. This bodes well for Alex, and it ensures that BritPop tastes as good as it sounds. 

Made from 40% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir and 20% Pinot Meunier this is about as classic a sparkler as it gets. Based on the 2018 vintage, the nose is welcoming, open and floral, promising depth and freshness on the palate, and this is precisely what happens. No stranger to harmony, Alex’s wine is the epitome of balance and poise, and it does something that the other two wines in this month’s column fall short of – it is a consummate crowd-pleaser! 

While Exton and Ridgeview require a degree of expertise to appreciate their crystalline structures, BritPop galivants along, high-fiving every taste bud it encounters, and it does this with style, infectious excitement and, hidden beneath the surface, extraordinary skill, too.

©Simon John Owen

2014 Exton Park, Blanc de Blancs Vintage

£65.00 www.extonparkvineyard.com

There are a handful of people you meet in our industry who emanate confidence, composure and extraordinary predictive skills. You will have your list, and I have mine. One name I expect we share is the palate behind Exton Park. 

 There is no doubt that Corinne Seely is a great winemaker, and yet her visionary skills are what lift her to Rock Star status, and this wine is conclusive proof because it was made from the first 20 rows of Exton Park’s finest Chardonnay block, and it is spectacular. 

With nine years under its belt and six spent on its lees, this is a semi-mature, chalk-drenched, lime-pith-tinged wine with stiffness, rawness and incredible energy in its core. 

While it has just been released, there is another decade under the bonnet here, and I do not doubt that this wine will form part of Corinne’s greatest hits compilation in years to come. 


2018 Ridgeview, Blanc de Blancs

£75.00 www.ridgeview.co.uk 

An exceptional limited edition, Ridgeview calls this a ‘single-vineyard, flagship wine; pure, precise, finely structured and only produced in tiny volumes in the very finest vintages’.  

You can imagine stumbling across this sentence in marketing materials from any over-excited executive wishing to whip up interest in their products. But this sentence, in truth, under-promises because the glories found in this bottle mean there is nowhere else to go other than deploying the infrequently used term Rock Star for this wine. Not only that, this wine has a stadium-filling quality (assuming there is enough stock), and I say this because the flavour is utterly brilliant. 

It is super-fresh, stunningly lemony and amazingly active on the palate. It must have been agonising waiting 42 long months for it to complete its lees ageing. I gave this wine a rare 19/20 in my notes, and if that doesn’t guarantee it Rock Star status, nothing does.

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