Friends, a few weeks back I had the great opportunity to visit the vineyards of Hampshire, located roughly 50 miles southwest of London. The tasting was set up at Hattingley Valley, one of the up and coming wineries of England. We left central London and took the train to Basingstoke, located roughly 50 minutes from the winery. The region sees less rain than most other parts of England. They had recently endured some snowy conditions — which is highly unusual weather for them. Usually this region sees very little snowfall during the year and mild growing conditions which somewhat echo those in Burgundy.
The past two vintages in Hampshire have been highly challenging, leading to low yields and a very small crop. Most wineries have chosen not to bottle vintage 2016 and 2017 sparking wines and have chosen rather to blend those vintages into other cuvees. The previous two vintages, 2014 and 2015 were generally excellent growing conditions. Here is a background on the vintages and wineries, as well as the wines reviewed. It was a very memorable journey to the south of England which is a very exciting emerging region that makes some excellent sparkling wines.
Speaking to winery representatives, they were able to offer good detail on each vintage, which was a general consensus that the past two vintages were challenging and the two prior to that were near perfect growing conditions.
2017- Last years vintage, 2017, was considered to be a challenging vintage. A late frost hit the vineyards late so that impacted the vines. That led to lower yields but a high quality crop. Cottonworth lost 70% of their crop due to the frost conditions. The harvest was prolonged during the growing season which led to nearly two different harvests. The weather in July helped the growing season. Some wineries did not make wine which were sold in bulk.
2016- The 2016 vintage was a lower yield vintage as well with generally dry weather. Grapes were harvested in early October. Quality was high but the yields were down considerably, just as in 2017. There was some late frost which didn’t to hit vines as badly as 2017. The wines were not typically as high quality as 2014 and 2015 but growers are optimistic that the wines show a nice purity of fruit and a good acidity.
2015- This a vintage with good quality fruit. The region saw a long growing season with harvest being largely in mid to late October which was a week later than the previous vintage. Yields were generally down due to some ripening issues. Fruit was generally solid, as the wineries reported particularly good Chardonnay grapes.
2014- The was a wonderful, near perfect vintage. There was a long growing season with good conditions in the spring and having warm weather in September. The winemaker from Hattingley Valley, Emma Rice, mentioned that this was the largest vintage which had high yields and high quality fruit.
Cottonworth is a winery that boasts a four generation farming background. Hugh Liddell, serves as proprietor, owns two thousand acres of Hampshire farmland. In 2006 he planted a vineyard, against the will of his family. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier was planted and in 2010 their first wine was made in a garage. Following that vintage their wines have been made at Hattingley Valley. The vines are set on chalk and clay in their a 30 acre vineyard, which is largely planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
NV Cottonworth ‘Classic Cuvee’ Brut Sparkling Wine- The ‘Classic Cuvee’ is a blend of largely Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, with a touch Pinot Menier. This was aged for 26 months on the lees prior to disgorgement. The wine was disgorged in September 2017. This begins with aromatics of brioche, lemon zest and Marcona almond. There is a wonderful astringency to the wine leading to kumquat, macadamia nut and a touch of lemon oil towards the back end. This is very well-made. Drink 2018-2024- 90
2014 Cottonworth ‘Rose’ Brut Sparking Wine- The wine is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. This has a very pretty color, as the wine was aged for 26 months on the lees prior to disgorgement. Guava and orange zest mark the nose. The palate is lithe and full of life. Pomegranate seed, sourdough bread and lemon oil flavors impress. The mineral driven finish lingers. Drink 2018-2028- 90
This winery sources from an estate 50 acre vineyard. The owner has previously been in the watercress business before planting vines. Wines are grown on chalky soils and the vineyard is planted to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. Head winemaker, Corinne Seely, is originally from France and drives this winery.
2011 Exton Park ‘Blanc de Blancs’ Sparkling Wine- This 100% Chardonnay wine is sourced from a cool vintage in Hampshire. Musty and yeasty on the nose, there are brioche, and lemon zest on the nose. The palate has good lift and weight. With good astringency, this shows intense lemon zest flavors towards the back end. The lingering mineral and citrus driven finish drives this wine, as does the subtle nutty quality. Drink 2018-2025- 91
NV Exton Park ‘Britagne Rose’ Sparkling Wine- This wine is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. This starts off with aromatics reminiscent of ripe strawberry, orange rind and suggestions of red cherry candy. A touch of sweetness marks this wine that brings some nice red fruits with citrus rind. This refreshing wine is really in need of a hot summer day. Drink 2018-2024- 89
Jenkyn Place is a family run winery that was purchased in 1997. The vineyard was first planted in 2004 with additional plantings the next two years. There are now a total of 12 acres planted on three different vineyard sites devoted to Pinot Noir, Pinot Meuneur and Chardonnay. The wine is made in West Suxxex at Wiston Wine Estate. The vineyard overlooks the owner, Simon Bladon’s house. Simon helps regularly with vineyard management. His daughter, Camilla, works in the vineyard as well as the business side of the winery.
2013 Jenkyn Place ‘Classic Cuvee’ Brut Sparkling Wine- This wine was disgorged in July 2017 as the wine sat for three years on the lees. The wine is 62% Chardonnay with the remainder Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. This starts off with aromatics of brioche, lemon blossom and white flower. The tension is lovely as the wine has a very refreshing side. Kumquat, sourdough bread and wonderful crushed seashell flavors impress. This is an outstanding wine that will cellar well for a decade. Drink 2018-2028- 91
2010 Jenkyn Place ‘Blanc de Noir’ Sparkling Wine- The wine was aged extensively on the lees. The musty and nutty nose entices immediately with roasted hazelnut and wild mushroom aromatics with baked apple. There is really good balance here and good weight. Astringent and highly poised, the wine yields green apple, kuymquat and Challah bread flavors that sit alongside the wonderful tension. Drink 2018-2028- 92
Owned by Simon Robertson who was a corporate lawyer in London, he had an interest in wine and Simon planted at two vineyard sites in 2008. The first vintage was 2010. The ‘Classic cuvee’ is the first non-vintage wine that they have made. Emma Rice serves as head winemaker and the winery was designed to her specifications. Hattingley Valley house other producers at their facility such as Raimes and Cottonworth. Pommery Champagne also has an English sparkling wine made at Hattingley Valley.
NV Hattingley Valley ‘Classic Reserve’ Sparkling Wine- Disgorged in Fall 2017 the wine is a blend of blend of largely Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Roughly 8 thousand cases are made of this wine. This starts off with brioche and white flower aromatics with a touch of nutmeg. The palate is lithe as the wine reveals bright lemon zest and kumquat with brioche flavors. The wine finishes long with lemon oil and minerals. Polished and delicious, this is an outstanding effort by Hattingley Valley. Drink 2018-2024- 91
2014 Hattingley Valley Rose Sparkling Wine- This wine is a blend of 60% Pinot Noir, 38% Pinot Meunier with a touch of Pinot Precoce. With 8 g/l this wine was fermented in 4-5 year old Burgundy barrels prior to bottling. This has lovely red fruits on the nose with a touch of citrus. Lithe and delicious, this refreshing Rose shows off wet stone, lemon zest and cran-pomegranate flavors that sit alongside some beautiful tension. This is a really good effort by winemaker Emma Rice. Drink 2018-2024- 91
Raimes is owned by a farming family that owns two thousand acres owned by fifth generation farmers. The vines for the wine were first planted in 2011. Located in South Downs, the vineyard is known for chalky soils. The wines are made at Hattingley Valley and the winery produces roughly 800 cases each year, depending on the vintage.
2014 Raimes ‘Classic’ Sparkling Wine- The wine is largely 51% Chardonnay, 29% Pinot Noir and 20% Pinot Meunier. The wine was disgorged in Aug 2017 prior to bottling as it spent 28 months on the lees. This starts off with brioche, baked apple and kumquat. The wine yields some bright flavors of Gravenstein apple, lemon zest and suggestions of brioche. Well-made and sturdy, this wine has a wonderful tension and salinity. There is a good sense of place. Drink 2018-2024- 90