What to look out for during this year’s English Wine Week

New launches

Image: Hush Heath

We may only be five months into 2018, but it’s been a busy year already for English wine.

Firstly, and available to pre-order this week, is urban winery London Cru’s first English Chardonnay, using grapes grown in West Sussex and produced in Fulham by winemaker Agustín González Novoa. London Cru has used French grapes in its last three vintages. Called Chancery Lane, the wine is described as being similar to Chablis in style but with “distinct English characteristics of crisp apples and pear drops”. It’s available via the Roberson Wine website for £15 a pop.

English wine stalwart Ridgeview has undergone a redesign, launching its new packaging at celebration at The Savoy last week. Representing “a deliberate move away from the more traditional sparkling wine design cues,” Ridgeview has worked closely with designers CookChick Design to produce modern branding for its six-bottle range.

In March, Cornwell’s Camel Valley became the first English wine producer to be granted a royal warrant. Founder Bob Lindo has been putting the finishing touches to his ‘By Appointment’ bottles in time for English Wine Week.

Unveiled in April is Hampshire’s latest winery called Black Chalk. Releasing a classic brut and a rosé (both blends of Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir) which will retail for £35 and £40 respectively, the brand is the brainchild of Hattingley Valley’s Jacob Leadley, who gave up a job in the City to retrain as a winemaker back in 2009. Black Chalk is certainly going down a treat, having recently been shortlisted for the drinks business’ new Sparflex award for English Sparkling wine packaging.

If you want to swat up on the industry, MW power couple Susie Barrie and Peter Richards have just published ‘The Essential Guide to English Wine’, available here for £10, with trade and bulk prices negotiable.

Just in time for this month’s royal wedding, Surrey producer Greyfriars launched its Cuvée Royale 2015 a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay sourced from its Monkshatch vineyard. Look out for more single vineyard releases due to be released, which include a Blanc de Noirs and an Old Vines Blanc de Blancs, produced using the original vines planted on the site that are now almost 30 years’ old.

Plumpton College is certainly pulling out all the stops this year, changing its certification provider to the Royal Agricultural College and launching an A-Level equivalent course for those aged between 16 and 18. In addition, it gave a first-year student the opportunity to re-design its entire wine portfolio to reflect the “increasing quality of English and Welsh wine”.

One of the most eagerly anticipated launches this year was the first sparkling wines from ambitious Sussex producer Rathfinny. Releasing a 2014 blanc de blancs and a 2015 sparkling rosé, unveiled at a launch event in April at Somerset House, the wines will be available from June. The bottles picked up a special commendation at the drinks business’ new Sparflex award for English Sparkling wine packaging, while the winery has laid down over 800 imperial pint (56.8cl) bottles of its Blanc de Noirs 2015, which is due to be disgorged next year.

And finally, from bringing back a tradition, to creating an entirely new one – earlier this year, Ben Walgate of Tillingham Wines released a Pet Nat rosé, called PN17, as well as two Ortegas, one of which is matured in Georgian qvevri, which are due to be unveiled shortly. With plans in the pipeline for a still Chardonnay, Walgate has gained the support of Les Caves de Pyrene who are stocking all three wines.

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