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English Wine Tasting 2014 highlights

Earlier this year English wineries gathered a stone's throw from Parliament Square to share their wines with the drinks trade. Following a good, if challenging at times, harvest in 2013, the still wines didn't disappoint, and the sparklers once more showed why England is becoming such a force on the fizz world stage.

Here are my highlights, as prepared for Imbibe, the magazine for restaurants, pubs and bars.

Nutbourne Bacchus 2011

A wonderfully aromatic wine which illustrates beautifully what England's signature grape can achieve given the right handling and the right soils. 

Floral aromas mix with light lemon, moving to a palate with tart tropical fruit flavours alongside ripe Granny Smiths.

Furleigh Estate Blanc de Blanc 2009

From the Jurassic coast and former UK Winemaker of the Year comes this white winner.

Apricots and ripe, ripe apples on the nose, perhaps with a light mandarin peel note, this is expressive and elegant. The palate has gentle stone fruits, yeasty notes, and a long finish.


Furleigh Estate Blanc de Blanc 2009, £25, Furleigh Estate website


Laithwaites Theale Vineyard Blanc de Blancs 2007

With its sprightly mix of ripe orchard fruit and zesty, tart peach to finish, alongside a lick of citrus twang, Laithwaites have fashioned a lively sparkler form its weeny vineyard outside its HQ in Theale.

£22.99, Laithwaites shops & online

Nyetimber Demi-Sec NV

Here's something original on the English sparkling wine front - a demi-sec rather than brut fizz from those Sussex pioneers, Nyetimber.

With aromas of candied fruit and rich honey on the nose, this feels like it could be special. And it is.

12%, £35, Harvey Nichols nationwide, Sparkling English Wines 


Element 20 2010

Element 20 2010 is one of the most complex still English wines I have tasted, with a fine juxtaposition between the tart zestiness of the Bacchus and the stone-fruit complexity of low-yielding, barrel-fermented Chardonnay.

With hints of honey and acacia, and a seriously long finish, this is a great example of what can be achieved – admittedly with more than a little care and attention. But then the winemaking duo behind this, Aussie John Worontschak and Kiwi Sam Harrop MW, have created wines of depth all around the globe.

RRP £20, available from a range of independent shops, including The VineKing, Dorking; The Sampler, Islington; Noel Young Wines; for full list see Litmus Wines 

Wareside Wines Sparkling 2008

Lightly biscuity with white peach notes, this is a highly promising sparkling wine from the Briscoes in Hertfordshire.

As with the majority of the smaller English and Welsh wineries, Wareside Wines has no winery on site at the moment. So the Briscoes' Pinot Noir joins with Chardonnay from Martin Oldaker in Surrenden in Kent, with Vince at Stanlake Park acting as midwife-winemaker.

£22, from winery; The Vine Shop, Ware

Vineyard investments

It’s wonderful the number of Rent-a-Vine schemes cropping up around the country.

One of the ones I was most impressed with recently is Ancre Hill’s in Wales – but maybe that’s because I’m a greedy guts!

Plumpton The Dean Brut NV

This year's star from Plumpton College, the UK's viticultural centre of excellence in Sussex, The Dean Brut scooped a Gold at the 2011 South-East Vineyard Association Awards, and the President's Trophy for best small production (less than 1500 litres) in the 2011 English and Welsh Wine of the Year Competition.

£20, available from the college direct, local Waitrose, Waitrose Direct, Butler's Cellar (Brighton), English Wine Centre (Alfriston), Middle Farm (Firle) & selected local stores. For full list, see handy Spring Portfolio on Plumpton web.

Camel Valley Tour Tickets

Not so much a drink this one, but the final element in our Ultimate DrinkBritain Case: a chance to meet the UK Winemaker of the Year, Sam Lindo, on one of Camel Valley's popular afternoon tours. You'll have to make your way there under your own steam, but it is in a delightful spot, so well worth the visit anyway.

Sam is as modest as they come, so don't expect airs and graces. And if he's tied up on other business, it will be either assistant winemaker Sarah in charge, or his dad, founder Bob Lindo.