Best English Grapes
Looking to get into English wine, but not sure what grapes to be looking out for? Head of Consumer Sales Simon Huntington checks out some of the most delicious options. The Best English Wine Grapes to Try England, in recent years, has become acclaimed as one of the world’s best producers of sparkling wines, and English fizz has beaten French Champagnes at a number of blind tastings. Yet the rise in quality of English still wines has been just as remarkable, if not as headline-grabbing. Some grapes like Bacchus actually seem to work better in English terroir than anywhere else. Others like Chardonnay aren’t better – just different – with distinctive flinty characteristics when grown in England’s chalky soils. The modern English wine industry is still so young that it’s a time of incredible learning, growth and change. The famous wine regions of continental Europe have had centuries to work out the best terroirs for growing grapes, and the best varieties to have planted. England’s just getting started – so while there are exquisite wines being made, there are also plenty of wines out there that have… room for improvement. So to save you the trouble of sorting the wheat from the chaff, we’ve outlined England’s best grapes: 3. English Chardonnay Flinty Perfection If you love Chablis, but hate buttery Chardonnays from the southern hemisphere, then English Chardonnay is for you. Like Chablis, good English Chardonnays have delicate structure and rounded mouthfeel from ageing on lees, yet they add a flinty mineral character from being grown on England’s chalky soils. Two superb examples are London Cru Chancery Lane Chardonnay, which is fresh, delicate and incredibly gluggable, and Simpson Estate Gravel Castle Chardonnay, which shows wonderful apple and nashi pear character, with creamy texture and a finely mineral finish. 2. English Pinot Noir Not just for sparkling England’s Pinot Noir is principally grown for sparkling wine production – as one of the three authorised varieties in Champagne, it’s a crucial component of most Traditional Method English sparkling wines. Many sparkling wine producers also make a still wine with some of their left over Pinot, but these can lack body and fruit intensity, since grapes for sparkling wines are typically picked too early for optimum still wine production. The best examples – like Simpson Estate Rabbit Hole Pinot Noir – are made from Burgundian Pinot Noir clones – specifically intended for still wine production and farmed separately to sparkling wine grapes. In this case, they can show the body and ripe fruit of a good red Burgundy, with a distinctive mineral character from England’s chalky soils. As a sideline, English Pinot Noir can also make exceptionally pure, delicate rosé. For a superb, Provence-like example from Kent, check out Simpson Estate Railway Hill Rosé, or for bashfully pale Pinot rosé from Surrey, try London Cru Rosaville Rd Rosé. 1. English Bacchus The Queen of England Bacchus loves the English climate. Like a typical northern-European who gets burnt the second the sun comes out, Bacchus suffers when the climate gets too warm, and its wines can lack vibrancy, acidity and aromatic profile. Of course too much sunshine is rarely a problem in England, and Bacchus grapes ripen perfectly, yet maintain a wonderfully zingy, citrus character, to match with aromas of elderflower and freshly-mown meadow. Top examples like London Cru Baker St Bacchus are utterly evocative of the English countryside – and there really isn’t a better match with a plate of freshly-shucked Whitstable oysters. For more news and offers on English wines, join our mailing list
Teaming up with Simpsons
Roberson Wine and Simpsons Wine Estate join forces Simpsons Wine Estate and Roberson Wine are delighted to be working together as the Kent based winery launches four new English still wines in 2019. Following a bumper English wine harvest in 2018 that delivered extremely high quality fruit, Charles and Ruth Simpson will be introducing four prestige still wines to the UK market this year, which will be distributed via the team at Robersons. With a strong emphasis on provenance and a sense of place, the four wines are all named after interesting local roads that surround the vineyards and winery in Barham, including: Gravel Castle Chardonnay 2018 – the ‘early release’, baby brother of Simpsons Wine Estate’s Roman Road Chardonnay. Derringstone Pinot Meunier 2018 – the team believes this may be the UK’s first Blanc de Noirs still Pinot Meunier - sealed under the Vinolok glass closure. Railway Hill Rosé 2018 – a delicate Provencal-style rosé, created from 100% Pinot Noir, beautifully packaged and sealed under Vinolok. Rabbit Hole Pinot Noir 2018 – created from low yielding still wine clones 115 and 375, the team are most surprised and delighted with the quality of this still Pinot Noir. These four new wines will be joined later in the year by the Roman Road Chardonnay 2018, which will now age for 12 months prior to release. This will be the third vintage of their highly acclaimed Chardonnay, which has been produced in very limited quantities over the past two years. We had been looking for an English wine partner for some time, and Simpsons Wine Estate fits the bill perfectly. Their still Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are produced from Burgundian clones grown in chalky soils close to Canterbury and sit superbly alongside our award-winning portfolio of great wines from France and California. We are looking forward to introducing them to our customers this spring. Ruth Simpson, co-owner of Simpsons Wine Estate says, “2018 was an incredible year for us at Simpsons Wine Estate and we’re thrilled to be working with the team at Roberson Wine to launch our new premium still wines. We are both quality-driven, family businesses that are passionate about English wine, so we share many commonalities. Robersons have a fantastic list of prestige customers in the wine world and we look forward to introducing our exciting new wines to their exclusive client base.” About Simpsons Wine Estate Charles & Ruth Simpson have been making award-winning wines at Domaine Sainte Rose, their stunning, southern French property, for the past 17 years. Combining Old World terroir with New World techniques in the vineyard, as well as in the winery, they now produce an eclectic range of award-winning wines that have won international acclaim and are sold around the world. In 2014, they bought their expertise and savoir-faire back to the UK establishing Simpsons Wine Estate in Barham, Kent, with an aspiration to create the finest quality Method Traditional English sparkling wine. Simpsons Wine Estate now has 30 hectares of vineyard, planted with the grape varieties, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The vineyards occupy glorious positions on the sunny, sheltered slopes of the North Downs, protected from the whimsy of the English climate by ancient woodlands and anchored in the iconic, free-draining, chalky soils, so revered in the world of sparkling wine. In 2016 a state-of-the-art winery was created in Barham in preparation for their first harvest and a modern tasting room was completed during 2017, complete with a helter skelter slide. For more information on Simpsons Wine Estate and other news and offers, join our mailing list.
Alex Hurley, Roberson Wine's Assistant Winemaker, takes a deeper look into what goes into our wines. They put what in my wine? With ‘Veganuary’ more popular than ever this year, many of us spent last month deeply considering our food choices. This magnifying glass can also be applied to the production of wine, which sometimes involves the inclusion of products that are not in line with vegetarianism or veganism. Drinking wine romantically conjures up images of picturesque vineyards, musty cellars full of barrels, and passionate winemakers. Whilst this idealistic representation of wine helps us connect with the product, it shouldn’t be overlooked that in the production of every bottle there are hundreds of viticultural and enological decisions impacting how the grapes were grown and the wine was made. Some grape growers and winemakers approach grapes with their hands in the air. These are the minimal interventionists, who allow the wines to set their own course. This hands-off approach can result in some astonishingly fabulous wines; wines which speak of their place, their grape, and the personality of the winery. This winemaking method, however, does have its risk and many examples find their way to the table with severe problems. These faulty wines struggle to represent their variety or vineyard, but rather speak of wildness where the hard work with the vines, the vitality of the soil, the climatic influences of the vintage, as well as efforts in the cellar are whitewashed by off-aromas, haze, or poor balance. This is where a winemaker’s knowledge of chemistry and microbiology enters the arena. From fruit arrival to bottling, a winemaker’s responsibility is to guide the process to ensure that the best wine possible is created from the grapes. This involves making thoughtful enological decisions which fit with the wine style and winery ethos. As part of this process, whether a wine is conventional, organic, or biodynamic, non-grape products, commonly referred to as ‘additions’, are regularly used and added into the wine. These additions have a purpose such as improving the wines clarity, protecting from oxidation, improving shelf-life stability and age-ability, softening or reducing astringency and bitterness, or preventing unwanted yeast and bacteria from hijacking the wine. One such traditional method of wine clarification was, for example, to add egg whites into barrels of red wine. The proteins in the egg white helps to attract and settle out tannins and solids in the wine and helps the wine to become more palatable. The challenge for the consumer, however, is to get to the bottom of what was used to make a specific bottle of wine. For vegans, vegetarians and people with allergies, this point is perhaps a little more critical as many of these products are derived from animal sources such as eggs, fish, cow’s milk, and gelatine. Whether or not these products have been used can be difficult to answer, so it is the best course for vegans to source accredited vegan appropriate wines. Another option would be to contact producers directly as many wines which are not explicitly labelled as vegan would, in fact, fit the criteria. The good news in this area of winemaking is that many producers are now taking heed of the growing demand for vegan-friendly wines. There are now effective substitutable products in the market place which can be used with similar impact. We've taken the hard work out of finding vegan wines by putting them all in a handy collection. Browse the vegan wine collection now.
Zero to Hero
Introducing Pierre Zero Alcohol-Free Wine It’s that time of year again. Veganuary, Dry January, or whatever you want to call it. It's the occasion to dig out the running shoes and dust off the spiralizer. What’s becoming clear is, unlike many of those hitting the gym this month, alcohol-free is becoming a drinks choice that is here to stay. I never thought I would be writing this blog post. For so long, low alcohol wines were considered a dark art that only German wine mega-factories could conjure up. You would find the wines lurking on the bottom shelf of a supermarket covered in dust. However, ‘healthification’ has swept the nation, with many people choosing to lower their alcohol consumption and be more aware of what they are drinking. The industry has reacted, and now we have an amazing choice of de-alcoholised beer, booze-free gin and now, expertly made non-alcoholic wines. When looking to bring on a new range of alcohol-free wine to Roberson, we had to taste a lot of non-alcoholic wines, and what became clear was that the variation in quality is enormous. We never list wines we wouldn't drink ourselves, and I wasn’t willing to compromise on quality just to fill a gap. Domaines Pierre Chavin are the market leaders in producing alcohol free wine. They stay completely true to the varietals and take every care to produce the best possible wine they can. They start by growing grapes in the Languedoc using artisanal techniques and take every care to preserve the delicate eco-system within the vineyards. After making wines in the traditional way, alcohol is gently filtered out before bottling. So, if you’re looking to cut back on alcohol consumption, yet miss the satisfaction of a nice cold rosé after work, a warming red with your Sunday lunch, or a crisp white with your midweek fish, look no further.
New Year, New Cru
Introducing Roberson Wine's new assistant winemaker Vintage 2018 is done, the fermentations are all complete, and as winter takes hold of London the activity for London Cru in the Roberson winery slows down. This is a great time for our team to stop and reflect on our achievements since opening the winery in 2013. We have become a well-known hub for tasting cracking wines, a lively event space, and a producer of critically acclaimed wines. The 2018 vintage was a particularly great one for us and highlights the growing maturity of the wine industry in the UK. With a great number of new vineyards being planted around the country, and production of increasingly high-quality grapes, England really has become a world class producer of cool climate wines. To support this future, the London Cru wines from 2018 were exclusively sourced from vineyards in England. This decision was made deliberately to support our local growers, allow us to showcase quality English wines in the heart of London, and finally to minimise the environmental impact of transporting our fruit long distances. As the first urban winery in London, we feel this new step is an important metamorphosis for our long-term sustainability. At London Cru we have shown the world that quality award winning wines can really be made right in the heart of the capital. In the coming years London Cru will continue to demystify wine and bring innovation and eccentricity into the London wine scene. With this new pathway in mind we would like to introduce Alex Hurley, who will join Agustín Novoa in the winery team for 2019. Alex worked as a Geologist through Australia and Asia before deciding to follow his passion for wine. Having previously made wines in Australia, Burgundy, and Barolo, the seduction of working with quality English grapes brought him to the UK. With a Master of Enology and Viticulture, Alex will drive the daily operations of the winery, work closely with our growers, as well as be a friendly face in the winery. In sync with our new direction with the London Cru wines, Alex loves to make wines with minimal intervention, great balance, and natural acidity. When not making or talking about wines, Alex is a passionate foodie and looks forward to exploring more of the English countryside. If you’re interested to get a sneaky taste of the wines from our winery tanks, have a chat with our team, or find out more about our new winemaking direction at London Cru, check out our upcoming tours and tastings.
Bubbles with Personality
What's your Champagne Personality? Ever wondered what style of Champagne suits your personality? Take our quiz and find out. Once you've established your personality fit, follow the links to find the Champagnes that match. Select one answer for each scenario: 1. You’re meeting a new partner’s parents for the first time. What do you wear? A: Whatever’s clean will do. B: My outfit will be well-chosen, beautiful, and express my personality. C: Anything Gucci or Prada. D: A bespoke, crisply-pressed, Saville Row suit. 2. You’re upgrading your mobile phone. What do you go for? A: My Nokia 3310 still works fine, and I see no reason to change. B: My upgrade plan means that I always have the latest iPhone. C: Whatever has the best camera – my thousands of followers demand quality selfies. D: I own a mobile, but only switch it on when I want to call somebody. 3. Where do you like to eat out? A: There’s a fantastic small restaurant around the corner from where I live. I know the owner and she usually offers me a glass of something on the house. B: I’m always at the latest launch. I’ve eaten there before the critics have even heard of it. C: The more Michelin stars the better. D: I usually book a private room at the Gavroche. 4. You’re going to see a movie. What do you pick? A: Why pay £15 to listen to people scoff popcorn? I’d rather curl up on the sofa with a classic Robert De Niro. B: I’m a member of an exclusive pop-up film club. C: If there aren’t explosions, I’m not interested. D: Movies are books for people who lack patience and imagination. 5. You’re planning a holiday. What do you book? A: Cornwall or Scotland. Why go abroad when there are so many beautiful parts of the UK? B: The best adventures are unplanned. I'll find out where I'm going when I get there. C: A fabulous villa in Mykonos. Preferably somewhere close to Scorpios Beach Club. D: We have a family house in the south of France. Good food, good wine and good times. 6. You’re going to a music festival. Where will your friends find you? A: I always set up an area at the top of the slope. You can see the stage and enjoy the music without getting too crowded. B: I’m friends with one of the bands and they always get me a backstage VIP access pass. C: Stage-diving anyone? D: Music festival? You mean Glyndebourne, right? 7. Money is no object. What type of car do you buy? A: Something German, but nothing too flashy. Reliability is more important than 0-60. B: Ownership is such a "20th Century" way of thinking about things. C: A Lamborghini Huracan Performante. D: I wouldn’t trade my 1961 Jaguar E-Type for anything. 8. You’re buying a house. Where’s the new pad? A: Somewhere with good schools and an easy commute. B: There’s a polyamorous co-habitation space I’m looking into. I’m interested in new ways of living. C: The important thing is that there’s space to land a helicopter. D: One doesn’t buy houses. One simply looks after them for the next generation. Answers: Mainly As: You enjoy the finer things in life, but you’ve an eye for a bargain. Big brand bling and marketing spiel don’t impress you. Try Henri Dosnon or Veuve Borodin, each of which offer superb, artisan-producer quality at 'Tuesday night' prices. Mainly Bs: You’re a trend setting early adopter and an independent thinker. You’re never afraid to experiment and discover new things. Try Artéis and Co. Brut 2004 or Dosnon Recolte Noire. Each of these are from smaller producers you may not have heard of, but offer an interesting spin on typical Champagne styles. Mainly Cs: You have a big personality and aren’t afraid to share it with the world. You enjoy the best of everything and aren’t afraid to pay for what you want. If you want the best, regardless of price, try Bollinger's La Grande Année or Dom Pérignon 2009. Each offers exquisite quality that's hard to beat. Mainly Ds: You’ve got great taste and you know quality when you see it. You’re understated, quietly confident, and your friends know they can always trust your recommendations (if they can afford them of course…). Try Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition or Jacques Selosse 'Sous le Mont'. These are amongst the finest examples of small grower Champagnes, made without compromise for the true aficionado.
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