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Lindo: English producers need to stop aping Champagne

Sam Lindo, chief winemaker of Camel Valley in Cornwall, has spoken out about English producers’ approach to sparkling wine, claiming too many are trying to ape Champagne.

Sam Lindo

“Too many English sparkling wine producers are trying to make Champagne by using the same grapes and the same winemaking methods. We should be doing something different,” Lindo told the drinks business.

“I think we are the only English sparkling wine producer that makes fizz with a flavour profile you wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else in the world,” he added.

While he uses both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in his sparklers, Lindo also gives prominence to Seyval Blanc, using around 60% in the estate’s flagship Brut.

“We should be using grapes best suited to our cool climate, that’s why I work with Seyval Blanc, Bacchus, Reichensteiner, Rondo and Dornfelder,” Lindo told db.

Rather than trying to make rich, full-bodied sparklers, Lindo is deliberately aiming for a subtle flavour profile.

“Australian wine pioneer Len Evans once said: ‘taste is best enjoyed at the lowest possible level of perception’, and I’m a big believer in that.

“Big wines tire very quickly – it’s the subtle wines that hold your interest. I want our wines to display an underripe character that reflects their English roots.

“I’m looking for flavours of fruits commonly grown in England: green apple, gooseberry and elderflower in the whites, and strawberry, raspberry and red apple in the rosé,” he said.

Lindo, who sells 40% of his wine at the cellar door, said he doesn’t know from year to year what percentage of still wine Camel Valley will make until harvest time.

“If we can’t make sparkling wine from the grapes, then we’ll make still wine,” he said.

He also spoke of the importance of awards in validating his winemaking ability.

“You’re only as good as your last vintage. It’s hard to accurately judge your own wines, so winning an award is great, as it shows you’ve done a good job,” he said.

As for the 2012 vintage, Lindo said that Cornwall had escaped a lot of the heavy rains that have plagued the rest of the country in recent months.

“We’ve been grateful for this recent sunny spell, but it’s impossible to predict the quality of a vintage until harvest time,” he said.

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