If the name Bacchus solely conjures up for you the image of a debauched ancient-Roman god of feasting and drinking excess, then you probably haven’t tasted what is fast becoming known as “England’s grape”, by the same name.
Whereas the Roman god of wine is often portrayed as a slovenly glutton, the grape variety Bacchus is all nerve-tingling freshness and zingy citrus – something fabulous to install in an ice-bucket on a sunny summer’s day and sip instead of the usual Sancerre, or Pouilly Fumé.
It wasn’t always obvious that this would be the case; originally conceived at a German Wine Institute in the 1930s as an early-ripening cross between Riesling, Silvaner and Müller-Thurgau, the grape never really took off in its native land, other than as something to blend in with other less-flavoursome varieties.
However, following the grape achieving protected status in 1972, it began to be adopted by English winegrowers, who found that England’s cooler climate and shorter annual growing hours resulted in a gorgeously fresh, aromatic, Elderflower character to match with Bacchus’ naturally exuberant varietal flavours.
Today, Bacchus is regarded by the English Wine Producers body as “one of the UK’s better varieties, capable of producing world-class wines” – and nowhere is this truer than at Roberson’s winery downstairs: London Cru.
As Victoria Moore wrote in The Telegraph in March 2016, London Cru’s last vintage of Bacchus “might just be the best I’ve tasted…. 20 per cent of it has been aged on its lees in old wooden barrels to give it some texture, and the wine is absolutely bone dry. It’s lovely: broad, yet also fine, redolent of elderflowers and fat blades of grass.”
If our preliminary tastings with London Cru winemaker Gavin Monery are anything to go by, the new vintage 2016 is looking even better, adding floral and stone fruit aromas, with richer texture in the mouth, from 5% barrel fermentation.
So this summer, side-line the Sancerre, as you won’t taste anything more delicious, or quintessentially English, than London Cru’s Bacchus. While the grape variety might have started its life in Germany, it really has found its true home in the heart of England’s countryside.
London Cru Baker St. Bacchus is available now.