Friday, 14 October 2011

Simon Hoggart praises English Wine in the Spectator

Simon Hoggart

It is astonishing how much English sparkling wine has improved over the past few years. Some of the best isn’t just good; it is very good indeed, winning awards in blind tastings around the world.

Wines such as Nyetimber, Camel Valley, Chapel Down, Breaky Bottom, Hush Heath and RidgeView are not merely as good as most Champagnes — they are much better.

There’s no reason why they shouldn’t be. The soil in southern England is similar to the terroir in Champagne. And Nyetimber of Sussex, who are making this offer in association with Private Cellar, produce far fewer grapes per acre than Champagne growers are allowed, so they can inspect almost every grape that goes into the vats. All these wines are generously discounted. I would say ‘save them for your daughter’s wedding’, but they are far too good for that. Get stuck in now, if only to console yourself on her choice of fiancé.

There is £2 a bottle off the Classic Cuvée 2006 (1) which is packed with flavour, fresh and lively, with a hint of tropical fruit. At £27.99, it is barely pricier than any standard grande marque, and rather grander.

The Blanc de Blancs 2003 (2) at £29.99 is reduced by £3 a bottle, is all Chardonnay, and has that nice warm peachy feel of a fine wine from this grape.

The Rosé 2007 (3) is new, and looks gorgeous as well as tasting terrific. It’s a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (the red Burgundy grape) which gives it the lustrous flavour and colour; £5 off per bottle at £40.00.

I can hardly recommend more highly the Classic Cuvée 1995 (4). This is a magnificent wine. It has immense depth, a finish as long as a Fidel Castro speech, flavours of toast, yeast, hazelnuts, apricots and apple. The £6.50 reduction means it still costs £48.49, but that is half what you would pay for a premium cuvée from one of the great names of Champagne. And it is much, much more delicious.
Finally, a real treat, especially for Spectator readers (5). Magnums of the Blanc de Blancs (Chardonnay) 1996, at £88.99 per magnum (a saving of £10). This wine wins awards for its sheer beauty. It has been left on its lees for years, giving it extra depth and flavour. Honey, oranges, limes and cream all mingle in the glass. Glorious. Delivery, as ever, is free.