Posts Tagged ‘Chapel Down’

Be grateful.  I have spared you any photo evidence of the rash decision I made on Saturday to strip off to my smalls, and jump into the Channel because it was so hot on Hastings beach.

Instead, you have the much more attractive sight of a bottle of the English Rose sparkling that we took away with us from the Chapel Down shop the weekend before.

We had family down on Saturday – my eldest daughter absolutely adores her older cousins – so it felt like an appropriate occasion to open a special occasion wine.

I launched sussexwinelist.co.uk to the world on Sunday, and said in the press release –

In Bordeaux I experienced first-hand the great pride that the Bordelais have about their wine, and I came home wondering why we don’t have the same sort of attitude?

Here in Sussex (and just over the border in Kent) we have fantastic terroir, increasingly warm summers and winemakers who, it must be said, are delivering high quality, premium wines harvest after harvest. There’s no reason why, with a bit of encouragement, we Sussex people can’t make ‘home-grown’ our special occasion wine of choice.

So whilst this one is Kentish (and we’ll forgive them that) the drinking of it has kicked off a concerted effort on my part (particularly with sparklers) to buy local.  Champagne is a lovely drink, don’t get me wrong.  But some of these Sussex wines are truly outstanding.  So let’s support them, no?

Here’s my tasting note, followed by Chapel Down’s own…

Vintage Reserve English Rose (NV – ie non-vintage, which I grant you, is confusing), 12% vol, £19.99
[For those of you that don’t know, the wine is given a ‘vintage’ if all the grapes that went into the wine were from the same harvest; if they weren’t, and the wine is a blend of different years, the wine is non-vintage]

This one is a blend of Reichensteiner, Rivaner and Pinot Noir – the Pinot, as I understand it, being the dosage (ie the bit that they top up the bottle with, just after the dégorgement – the pressured discharge of the sediment, after the second fermentation).

Clear, medium‾ salmon colour

Clean, medium intensity, youthful; first aromas – roses and strawberries; second nose (after the swirl) – raspberries and honeysuckle

Dry, high acidity, light tannins; medium alcohol; medium+ body; creamy mousse (ie the fizz); medium+ flavour intensity and flavours of peach, raspberries and red plums; long length

Outstanding; premium priced; drink now, may be able to keep, but drink by 2015ish (says Dave)

Chapel Down’s own note
‘If you find some Champagnes too sharp, try this.  From the colour to the aftertaste this has delicacy, great finesse and high refreshment value.  A light lemon sherbet nose with hints of blackcurrant, rosehip and strawberry on the palate.’


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I said that I’d come back to the wines that Dave offered to us for tasting on Sunday…

I can’t really fault him on the tour, I have to say.  The content was really well judged in respect of being accessible and interesting whatever your level of wine knowledge.

We tasted six of the Chapel Down wines.  And I had a slurp of the Chardonnay 2009 as well, just before I bought some – at £12.99 (12.5% vol) – which is a bit more than I’d usually pay for white wine.

Dave’s best of the six – just so you know – were the English Rose and the Trinity 2009 red; both of which we tasted.  But we started with two whites – Flint Dry 2010 and Bacchus 2010.

Chapel Down provided their own tasting notes alongside the basic details of the wines and I didn’t have any violent disagreements, so here they are for you:

Flint Dry 2010, £8.50, 11.5% vol
[This is a blend of Chardonnay, Huxelrebe and Bacchus -] ‘England in a glass.  Dry, unoaked with crisp balanced acidity which has hints of apple and greengage on the nose’.  I also had a big green apple flavour going on, on the palate.

Bacchus 2010, £10.99, 12% vol
[Single varietal – Bacchus] – ‘A classic expression of Bacchus grown in the South East of England.  The wine shows grapefruit, gooseberry, passionfruit, floral and mineral charaters on the nose with tropical fruits, nettles and crunchy acid on the palate’.  I agree that those flavours were all there – the minerality particularly – but they were subtle.  The passion fruit wasn’t as pronounced as a high-end Pessac Léognan from the Graves region of Bordeaux, which is usually Sauvignon Blanc blended with Semillon.  Nor was the ‘tropical’ of a southern hemisphere intensity.  The flavours were delicate.

Next came the rosé.  This is sold, I gather, by Marks & Sparks and is, Dave says, a blend of red and white wines – Rondo, Schonburger and others – not a bled or pressed wine. 

English Rose (not Rosé) 2009 , £9.99, 12% vol
‘A blend of English varietals from the outstanding 2009 vintage.  Fresh strawberries, pear with a touch of cream on the finish’.

Then came two sparkling wines – both white.

Vintage Reserve Brut, £17.99, 12% vol
The name is a bit confusing, because this is a non-vintage wine (meaning that it is a blend of wines from different harvests, not just the one year) – ‘Pale lemon yellow in colour, the nose is slightly floral with some citrus. A well-structured wine with hawthorn, citrus and yeasty flavours and a hint of blackcurrant leaves’.  Not sure I have a sophisticated enough palate yet to get the Hawthorn, but there were bucket-loads of blackcurrant on the nose, which was interesting for a white sparkler…

Pinot Reserve 2004, £24.99, 12% vol
This, as you committed bubbly drinkers will know,  is the same sort of price as a high-end brand, non-vintage champagne (on offer!), but it definitely has the hallmark characteristics of vintage.  Very honeyed as far as I was concerned.  Too much for my taste.  Chapel Down says – ‘Pale gold in colour with pink highlights and an attractive sustained mousse [that’s the frothy bit when you pour it, and also the experience of the bubbles in your mouth].  The nose is rich and complex.  Hints of redcurrant, strawberry, and baked apple on the palate’.

And the last wine we tasted was the Trinity red.  But I’m going to open that tomorrow night for a friend who’s coming to dinner.  So I’ll do my own tasting note and compare with theirs – and then post!

In the end I spent too much in the shop.  I bought a bottle of the Bacchus 2010; the Rosé Brut (Pinot Noir) that has just won a gold medal.  The English Rose sparkling – which Dave said is a white wine with a dosage of Pinot Noir; and the Chardonnay, because I’m a white Burgundy fan, and I wanted to compare the English equivalent.

If you try any of the above, please let me know what you think…

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The beautiful herb garden at Chapel Down, where my wonderful partner took the girls to play, while daddy tasted wine!

It was serendipity rather than anything else…

Back to the family after a sojourn in Bordeaux, wondering what to do over the Bank Holiday Weekend.  Thought about sating a long-held desire to go for lunch and a nose around Chapel Down winery at their Tenterden vineyard.  Looked them up on the website and saw that – bingo – it is English Wine Week.

No better time to set up a blog about Sussex wine.  [Let’s call the Kentish honorary Sussex, for the sake of argument…]

Will post more about the wines.

Taken around the vineyard in a group by Dave – who was lovely, and explained the viticultural and vinification processes in an impressively accessible way.

Free tours and tastings at Chapel Down by the way during English Wine Week. 

So the clock is ticking.  Get yourself over there…

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