Vineyards of Hampshire

Showcasing the county’s wines to trade buyers.

Nine inspirational and proactive English wine producers, the Vineyards of Hampshire, gathered at one of London’s finest private members’ clubs, 67 Pall Mall, in St. James’s on Tuesday 4 February for the region’s sixth annual London trade and press tasting. 

The collaborative group once again opened the club’s doors to over 100 trade buyers and wine writers, with attendees including many influential names such as Susie Barry, Oz Clarke, Hugh Johnson, Matthew Jukes and Will Lyons. 

As well as promoting the county’s distinctive and enviable terroir, vineyard owners and winemakers were showcasing the array of distinctive styled still and sparkling wines produced in Hampshire and effectively highlighted the diversity, creativity and passion behind each of the individual brands. 

“I find it amazing that this event attracts some of the top wine journalists in the country, which shows the strength of our Hampshire brand and the quality of our wines,” said Caroline Stevens, Vineyards of Hampshire member. 

Black Chalk 

The location for this month’s editor’s visit, see page 18, founder and winemaker Jacob Leadley was pouring the latest release of the estate’s Classic. Reflecting Jacob’s love of “underdog” varietal meunier, which he believes is ideally suited to the UK’s challenging growing conditions, the new 2016 Classic sees a considered blend of 46% Chardonnay, 32% Pinot meunier and 22% Pinot noir used to create a clean, vibrant citrus-led wine, rich with texture and English poise. 

The ex-Hattingley Valley winemaker, who is now the proud custodian of four vineyards near Stockbridge, was also showing the 2016 Wild Rose. This 41% Pinot noir, 38% Pinot meunier and 21% Chardonnay blend is an explosion of well-rounded succulent summer fruits, with a hint of lemon zest and delicate floral aromas. 

Black Chalk’s range is currently distributed across the UK by Graft.

Cottonworth

Located in the Test Valley, Cottonworth is a boutique producer whose 10,000 bottles per year are skilfully crafted by the illustrious Emma Rice at Hattingely Valley. 

Owner Hugh Liddell’s focus on perfection and quality is reflected in each of the wines with the latest release, the 2014 Blanc de Blanc, already showing great potential as a fresh and considered wine. This wine will undoubtedly benefit from a few more months on cork.

The NV Classic Cuvée is a more relaxed style showing a perfect character and brightness, while the 2015 Sparkling Rosé, which includes a small addition of Pinot noir précoce in the blend, is a bouquet of airs and graces, with red summer fruits abounding. 

Cottonworth’s wines are distributed into London by Berkmann Wine Cellars and are available in the Hampshire area via a number of local stockists. 

Danebury Vineyard

Planted in 1988 before English producers started to focus on the Champagne trio, Danebury Vineyards, located near Stockbridge, produces some delightfully unusual still and sparkling wines.

Revelling from the 2018 harvest, sales and marketing manager Caroline Stevens was infectiously excited to show the estate’s latest still wine releases. Its 2016 Schönburger is suave and sophisticated, yet bursting with the anticipated and heavenly aromatic flavours of hedgerow and honeysuckle. Meanwhile the 2018 Reserve, 30% Madeleine Angevine, 30% Schönburger, 38% Auxerrois and 2% Pinot Gris, is reminiscent of an English summer picnic, as floral notes align with cut grass, orange blossom, and honeysuckle in this crisp, enlightening blend. 

Wines are currently made at Stanlake Park and Caroline predicts exciting new developments ahead with winemaker Nico Centonze now at the helm of production. 

Exton Park

It is always such a privilege to taste through Exton Park’s wines with head winemaker Corinne Seely. Corinne has not only mastered the art of respecting and expressing the single vineyard estate’s fruitful character, but has seemingly managed to inject her sense of pride, joy, passion and exuberance into every sip too. 

Despite only being disgorged one month ago the NV Blanc de Noirs on show was already fully open and alive, with acidity on point and bursting with fruits and flora. The Brut Reserve typifies this dynamic estate with its vibrant, fresh, citrus and mineral notes. 

The NV Rosé, is one of the most attractive sparkling pinks in the country, with an elegant nose leading onto a punchy, juicy mouthful of fruit flavours with length that just keeps giving. Corinne recalls opening a magnum for Christmas with her family in France. They blind tasted it against a Laurent Perrier Cuvée Rosé magnum and the Exton Park won hands down.

The Grange

The group’s newest member, the Grange was showcasing its 2015 Classic and 2015 Pink. Wines are produced by the talented Emma Rice at Hattingley Valley, from fruit grown on the Baring family’s 30-acre vineyard which was planted in 2011.

A great addition to the Vineyards of Hampshire family, the sparkling rosé is a delicate but zingy floral number, while the Classic is a traditional, bold expression with a savoury finish. 

The vineyard is currently open to visitors, by appointment only, and there are already big ambitions ahead with long term plans to develop an on-site winery giving greater scope for experimentation. Sustainability ranks highly on the agenda, with a focus on cover crops, running sheep in the vineyard, and reactive, rather than prescriptive spraying. 

Hambledon

England’s oldest commercial vineyard, established in 1952 by Major General Sir Guy Salisbury-Jones, Hambledon has sought to produce premium quality English Sparkling wine exclusively from Chardonnay, Pinot noir and Pinot meunier since 1999. Following a large planting in March 2018, the estate now comprises 200 acres of land under vine and the team is eagerly waiting for new cellar, storage, and wine tourism facilities to open.  

All wines were showing well, including the recently released zero-dosage sparkling rosé made from 100% Pinot meunier. This radiant coloured wine, produced in the saignée method, is packed with big, bold red fruit flavours which give way to a savoury, nutty finish.  

Hambledon’s wines, which are produced in a gravity-fed winery by the traditional method with an emphasis on malolactic fermentation and extended lees-ageing, are available to the trade through Fields, Morris and Verdin. 

Jenkyn Place

Situated on the south facing slope of the North Downs in Hampshire, Jenkyn Place is run by Simon Bladon and his daughter Camilla. The first vines were planted at the Bladon’s family home in 2004 on soils of greensand over chalk and marlstone which previously grew some of the most sought-after hops in Britain. Today the vineyard has grown to over 13-acres with more Pinot noir added in 2018 and the sparkling wines continue to be expertly crafted by Dermot Sugrue at Wiston Estate, Sussex. 

The estate’s first Blanc de Blancs, from the 2015 vintage, which was added to the line-up in October last year is the only wine from Jenkyn Place to see oak, and having undergone 100% malolactic fermentation the final blend is soft and fresh with a burst of citrus balanced by a hint of delicate stone fruits. The 2014 Classic Cuvée 2014 is an uplifting, crowd pleaser, while the 2010 Blanc de Noirs has a complex composition with bold nutty, toasty and baked elements. 

Raimes

A spectacular example of how diversifying into viticulture can breathe new life into a family farm. Grapes grown by the fifth-generation of the Raimes family in the South Downs National Park are sent to Hattingley Valley where they are transformed into a range of award-winning sparkling by Emma Rice and her team. 

It is easy to see why the 2014 Classic has racked up so many gold medals; this stunning wine has a wickedly captivating citrus nose with a hint of shortbread, while the 2016 Blanc de Noirs, brings enticing grapefruit flavours to the fore with a crisp acidity while a well-rounded mousse flirts with the taste buds. 

The estate’s first sparkling rose, the 2015 Vintage Rose, was also being showcased at the event. Everything from the soft pastel coloured label to the bright, fresh and playful wine inside the bottle makes the experience light and joyous. There is no doubt that this wine is ready to welcome in the spring and summer months. 

Hattingley Valley

The subject of last month’s editor’s visit, Hattingley Valley is this year celebrating 10 years since the winery opened its doors. As well as proudly supporting numerous other Vineyards of Hampshire members, the estate produces its own sterling range of superior sparkling wines and the use of oak barrels to ferment a small proportion of the wines has certainly allowed the estate to develop a distinctive style. 

Alongside the latest release of the NV Classic Reserve, which benefits from luscious lemon notes followed by toasty highlights and a nutty, savoury edge, Hattingley was also showcasing its newest sparkling rosé vintage. The 2015 Rosé, which was officially launched at the Wines of Great Britain tasting back in September, has certainly blossomed with a further 6 months on cork and summer fruits line the glass with a well-rounded mouth of tart, crisp strawberry with a controlled acidity bringing this wine through as a serious summer player.

The 2013 Blanc de Blancs provides a mature, grown-up conclusion to the flight with extended lees-aging paving the way for a creamy, silky textured offering, delivering rich toasty elements and proving that English wine has arrived. 

The Vineyards of Hampshire’s popular Fizz Fest will be taking place on Sunday 19 July 2020 at The Grange Vineyards, Itchen Abbas, nr Alresford.

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