Bring out the local seafood and oysters. Say hello to new small-batch, still wine Kent specialist Wayfarer Wines
Wayfarer Wines Woodland Chardonnay 2020, Woodchurch, Kent (£16.99-£18, GrapeBritannia & Roberson Wine, 12%)
Not all English wine is sparkling. Though rarely under £15, there are more and more still white and red wine gems around, too. Harvest happens a little later in the year for still wine specialists like Wayfarer Wines.
This year Wayfarer’s Chardonnay grapes will likely be picked around mid-October, as explained by Karen Kearns, of new Kentish start-up Wayfarer Wine. She informed me: “We tend to try to harvest a little later than most vineyards as we are looking for higher sugar and lower acidity levels than you would want for sparkling, meaning a later harvest.”
It could be even later given the vagaries of the English weather – a few English vineyards in 2013 picked Chardonnay in late November!
The ripe fruit really sings in this very small batch, light-bodied, unoaked Chardonnay from the immensely impressive 2020 vintage. Think honeysuckle, citrus and peach shouting out ‘seafood and oysters!’
Karen Kearns further waxed lyrical about the food-matching potential of this charming fruit-forward wine, telling me: “My own personal favourite place to find this is from Chart Farm in Sevenoaks, who stock our wines, and on Fridays/Saturdays have the most incredible new fresh fish bar!”
Kearns notes that its ‘bright lemon citrus notes pair excellently with seafood dishes with delicate flavours, so crab meat or prawns would also work nicely. It would also work well with a risotto with fresh green vegetables such as asparagus, peas, or spinach’ – or mushrooms, to my mind.
A great result by Nick Lane, the talented chief winemaker at specialist Canterbury contract winery, Defined Wine (Nick was previously winemaker at Cloudy Bay for some 13 years).
Just 1,500 bottles were produced from Wayfarer’s two promising young vineyards in Woodchurch and Maidstone. Dive in seasonal native oyster slurpers!
Find them on Twitter @WayfarerWines
Has the fizz gone out of your habitual gin? Try this vivid and exotic London Dry one instead…
Tesco Finest The Melodist London Dry Gin, England (£20, Tesco, 40%)
The great British gin boom or ‘ginnaissance’ shows no sign of waning. Indeed, a record of 124 net new distilleries were established in the UK in 2020, up 28% on 2019, as demand for gin, rum and whisky continued to increase.
Produced in partnership with Two Tykes distillery and crafted by Arthur Sikorski, Master Distiller at InterContinental Brands, this premium gin is made from 100% wheat grain and distilled and bottled in the UK.
My kind of London Dry (unmasked by sugar) gin – a tip-top, exotic but zesty mix of 12 botanicals, including yuzu, grapefruit and lemongrass, with a blazing bay leaf, green tea and juniper finish. Put it in a G&T and load it up with a garnish of rosemary and yellow grapefruit peel. A lightning strike of pure refreshment.
Try it with crab or cucumber sarnies, a chunk of Stilton or smoked salmon blinis (perhaps from Flimwell’s superlative The Weald Smokery). It’s also perfect for a quirky Martini.
Oh, the beauty of bottle age! A nicely developed (aged 90 months), splash-out, silky sparkling rosé from East Sussex
Hoffmann & Rathbone Rosé Reserve Brut 2012 (100% Pinot Noir), Mountfield, East Sussex (£52, H&R, 12%)
For a special treat, tuck away English fizz for a year or ten, saving it instead to enjoy later with special food or someone special.
An all-Pinot Noir sparkling rosé from a boutique winery run by husband-and-wife Ulrich Hoffmann and Birgit Rathbone in the scenic village of Mountfield, this 2012 sparkler is breathtakingly good, medium-bodied and still fresh as a daisy with strawberries, redcurrants and raspberries plus a garnish of rose petals, plums and orange zest.
The 10-hectare estate is planted to 50% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Meunier. Melanie de Matos, H&R’s Sales and Marketing Director, told me that this outstanding pink bubbly is their ‘most versatile wine to pair with food [since] it’s made as a true rosé wine’. She said it’ll ‘pair beautifully with traditional fish and crustaceans, as well as red berries, but I particularly love it with a smoked duck pâté and a dark chocolate dessert with a berry sauce’.
Thanks to its raised acidity (away with you fat and salt!), it’s also a winner with salmon carpaccio, scallops and fish and chips – hello Marino’s and the Down Town Fish Bar in Tunbridge Wells! Just 2,500 bottles produced. truly exceptional English sparkling rosé that warrants our applause.
Find them on Twitter @__h_r__
Special spotlight on the wonderful world of Westwell
Adrian Pike, MD of Westwell wines
Adrian Pike (above) is the MD and winemaker of Westwell wines. Located just beneath the Pilgrims Way on the North Downs, the winery grows four different grape varieties: Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Ortega.
Adrian, whose background was originally in the music industry – he ran Moshi Moshi record label – has always had a passion for wines, but it was a tasting of one of Will Davenport wines in a Soho restaurant in 2014 which led Adrian to transferring his love of drinking wine into making it.
“When I tried one of Will Davenport’s wines I called him the next day! I then began studying wine production and viticulture whilst working with him at Davenport,” says Adrian.
He then moved to Westwell and took over running the business and the team, most of whom have been there since the vineyard was first established in 2007. Each one is committed to making the finest sparkling and still varieties possible.
And what’s Adrian’s favourite tipple from Westwell? “Pelegrim. It’s the most Westwell-ian of the wines we make – it reflects what the site is capable of: Rich and full wine with a fruit-forward profile.”
Westwell Wine Estates Summer Field Blend 2020, Charing, Nr Ashford, Kent (£19.50, Westwell, 11.5%)
This is a delicious mid-weighted co-ferment of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay that plies pending drinkability and huge charm alongside a striking purity.
I caught up with Adrian Pike, Westwell’s MD and Plumpton-trained winemaker, and asked him what would be a great pairing for this marvel of an eminently gluggable, light tannin wine: “It drinks brilliantly slightly chilled, pop it in the fridge but take it out 10 minutes before you’re going to drink it,
“It works just great with barbecued meats and charcuterie but also with a decent salad, I love a tricolore one and it pairs nicely with that. I’d also be tempted to match it with fish, I know the rather wonderful Angela’s of Margate seafood restaurant is offering it by the glass to go with their seafood menu.”
I also rather like this with slow-roasted crisp pork belly. It’s also great on its own as a mouth-watering, pale red aperitif. Very little is left of this vintage – just 1,800 artisanal bottles were produced – so snap it up! Westwell will reopen to visitors after harvest, around mid-November.
Find them on Twitter @WestwellWines
6 MUST-TRY LOCAL WINES FROM SOME IMPRESSIVE INDUSTRY NEWCOMERS
Dillions Single Vineyard Bacchus 2020, Staplefield, West Sussex (£16.50-£18, The Wine Society) One for oysters, smoked mackerel/trout and Caerphilly
Roebuck Estates Classic Cuvée 2014, Petworth, West Sussex (GrapeBritannia, £34.99-£35) Scintillating sparkler to pair with seasonal oysters, mussels and scallops
Yotes Court ‘On the Bridle Bacchus’ 2020, West Peckham, Kent (£15, YC) Pair with fresh trout, shellfish and poached/grilled salmon
GB WINE AT A GLANCE
- There are now approximately 800 vineyards and 178 wineries
- Approximately 3,800ha under vine, with roughly two-thirds (roughly 33% each) of the total hectarage planted to just two varieties: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
- Some 8.7m vines were planted in the last five years (2017-2021), equating to 1,977 ha (4,884 acres)
- Just over 98% of vineyards are planted in England, with 1.5% in Wales, and the remainder in Scotland and the Channel Islands
- Typically, around 70% of each vintage becomes sparkling wine and the rest is still
From data supplied by WineGB and Wine Standards Branch (Food Standards Agency), 2021
Follow James on Twitter @QuixoticWine
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