THE recent revitalisation of English wine making is a great success story.
More and more grapes are being grown in England, particularly in the south east, and bottle fermented sparkling wine has reached levels of quality more expected of Champagne.
Geography is very important and that’s why the Downs, North and South with their chalk based soils, have become one of the most productive areas.
They are essentially part of the same limestone plateau that stretches to Champagne itself.
The significance of this factor cannot be over estimated because it’s the
mineral nature of the soil that gives the wines freshness and provides the right kind of environment for vines.
Westwell wines in Kent has vines that have been planted strategically based on experiences of conditions in the North Downs.
Their location is discovered just beneath the Pilgrims Way, a route used for centuries by Pilgrims travelling to Canterbury. As with many English producers, making sparkling wine to the Method Champenoise recipe is paramount. Westwell have been able to plant the two essentials: Chardonnay in
very flinty shallow soils and Pinot Noir in sandier soils.
They also make use of Ortega, once quite popular in Germany.
It’s an inspired choice as it produces fullflavoured white wines that are quite soft. With the cool conditions of an English summer acidity is not something that English wine makers need to accentuate.
All Westwell’s grapes are handpicked and pressed gently with minimal intervention.
Another advantage of Westwell is that you can order direct from the estate removing further costs from the chain; because of lower yields and production English wine can be relatively expensive.
Westwell Ortega Classic 2016 (westwell wines.com £75 for case of six or £12.95 per single bottle)
A surprisingly rich wine with scents of honeysuckle and apple blossom. The palate is a little waxy over its blast of grapefruit citrus. The finish is long and refreshing. I can imagine that this wine would pair nicely with seafood but its best setting may simply be when placed on its own nicely chilled in the garden.
Westwell Special Cuvée 2014 (westwellwines. com £165 per case of six or £29.95 per single bottle)
I’ve tasted some of the very best English sparklers from Nyetimber and Ridgeview and I have to say this is up there. It’s a serious glass of wine for your money made, just like Champagne, from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. It’s left in bottle for 24 months before disgorgement when the yeast sediment is removed. There’s plenty of biscuity bite to this cuvée with an elegant nose and rich lemony character to the palate.
‘It’s a serious glass of wine for the money’
Westwell Special Cuvee 2014
●● Westwell Ortega Classic