Dorset sparkling takes top spot in tasting17th March, 2014 by Patrick Schmitt
Dorset’s Langham Estate has come top in an annual blind tasting of almost 100 English sparkling wines which was held in the UK this month.
The competition is organised by winemaker and English wine consultant Stephen Skelton MW, who named it The Judgement of Parson’s Green after its location in west London and in reference to the famous Cabernet tasting competition held in Paris in 1976.
Now in its fourth year, Skelton said that this year’s scores for the top 10 English sparklings was higher than ever before, up almost a whole point to average 17.25 out of 20, demonstrating, he noted, “the increase in quality of the best wines”.
Langham Estate was described by Skelton as doing “exceptionally well”, taking top spot for its Classic Cuvée from the 2010 vintage, and eighth place for its 2010 Blanc de Noirs.
The producer is based near Dorchester in Dorset, and the wines are made by Liam Idzikowski using grapes grown on Bingham’s Melcombe estate – a historic house and 1000-acre farm – which was bought by John Langham in 1980.
Other relatively new producers who did well in this year’s competition according to Skelton were Henners, Wiston, Wyfold and Hattingley.
On the other hand he noted that the more established producers were less evident, although Ridgeview had two wines in the top ten and Bluebell and Camel Valley one each.
Coming in the top 20 were some newcomers, Court Garden, East Meon and Waitrose’s Leckford Estate – with their very first wine – along with longstanding English sparkling wine brands such as Gusbourne, Meopham, Meonhill, Pebblebed and Sharpham.
Skelton pointed out that “Ridgeview, as ever, were involved with several winning wines (five in the top twenty by my reckoning) and Dermot Sugrue, winemaker at Wiston, can also be pleased with the results: a total of seven of his wines (Wiston wines or wines made under contract) came in the top 30.”
This year’s tasting included 94 English Sparkling Wines from forty-seven different producers, which were scored by Richard Bampfield MW, Susie Barrie MW (Winchester Wine School), Giles Fallowfield (wine writer specialising in Champagne), David Furer (wine writer from Texas), Mike Harrison (Head Sommelier at Hotel du Vin, Henley), Richard Hemming (MW student and tasting for jancisrobinson.com), Rebecca Hull MW (wine buyer for Waitrose), Justin Howard-Sneyd MW (working with Direct Wines – Laithwaites), Charles Metcalfe (IWC and wine writer), Joanna Simon (wine writer), Margaret Rand (wine writer), Julia Trustram Eve (English Wine Producers), and Stephen Skelton himself.
Skelton also highlighted that wines from the classic Champagne varieties took all of the top spots, with the first non-Champagne variety (a Seyval blanc) appearing at number 13, while the next non-Champagne variety wine didn’t appear until 32nd place: a Seyval blanc, Rondo rosé.
Furthermore, he noted, “The rosés as a class did especially well with 18 out of the 24 entered making the cut into the top 45 wines – a far higher proportion than any other category – showing what a valuable style this can be for UK winegrowers.”
The top 30 wines can be seen on the following page.