An interview with London Cru's winemaker on making English wine
Aaron: So, the first question has to be: why an English Chardonnay?
Ag: I mean, why not? Chardonnay is the most widely planted grape on earth. It grows anywhere. This is not a Napa or Australian Chardonnay but it is a superb cool climate wine. Think Chablis.
Aaron: Just to confirm, this is your first English Chardonnay?
Ag: Most definitely yes! I think there are may be a few other producers making this style of wine but not very many. And especially not from the 2017 vintage, we were very fortunate to be able to produce this wine.
Aaron: Is this something that you are excited about as a long term prospect? How do you see this evolving vintage to vintage?
Ag: Yeah sure, obviously we rely on the weather of the vintage. That's the beauty of wine; it's not the same every year. The aim is to be able to produce a wine that represents where it comes from and that represents the best of the vintage.
Aaron: What were some of the key winemaking decisions you made to achieve this English Chardonnay?
Ag: The picking time of the grapes is the most important winemaking decision you can make. Choosing the right date to pick makes all the difference. Additionally, the fact that I vinified everything separately at different temperatures to create 3 ingredients which were blended together was important. Some parts were fermented in oak, some in concrete, and it was all whole bunch pressed.
But, really, the only recipe is that there is no recipe. It changes every year. The quality is in the grapes.
Aaron: Any interesting evolutions from its initial vinification to bottling?
Ag: Yeah sure, a little bit of the wine went through malolactic fermentation and that reduces the acidity. The wine still has a lovely fresh acidity, but we expect that from English wine. The real effect is that all of these bright fruit flavours are starting to be matched by other evolutionary aromas in the wine and this means it is showing complexity. I am very pleased with it.
Aaron: Picking up on aromas a bit, how would you describe the bouquet of this wine?
Ag: Well, it’s definitely got plenty of fruit, particularly pear and green apple, and this “pear drop” character that people keep telling me about – I’ve still never actually tried one by the way. But there are also lavender notes and more floral aromas, it’s not only fruit.
Aaron: How do you see people enjoying this wine?
Ag: I think it's a great summer wine. It's a light Chardonnay, but one with structure. It is the sort of Chardonnay to have with a starter or as an aperitif on a beautiful summer's day. But really I can see people drinking this any time. It's a very versatile wine. Chardonnay is the best style for this kind of versatility.
Aaron: Do you have any food-pairing suggestions?
Ag: Well, what Simon's eating would be ideal...
**cut to RW Head of Consumer Sales Simon Huntington tucking into a sumptuous carton of Pad Thai from our staff’s favourite Fulham street food truck** [laughs]
Aaron: [laughs] So Pad Thai from the food truck then?
Ag: Exactly! But seriously, it is such a versatile wine that it would go well with most things, including but not limited to Pad Thai. It has this incredibly acidity which makes it a superb wine to pair with food. As long as the food is delicious, this wine will only make it better.
Aaron: So what kind of wines do you enjoy drinking?
Ag: Obviously it is a difficult question for a winemaker but I do have a special passion for Pinot Noir, and for Burgundy in general. I really like Chardonnays and enjoy making them. Making white wine in general is very rewarding because of the complexity of aromas you can develop. That’s what I enjoy, and I can’t wait for everyone to enjoy this unique expression of English Chardonnay.
Aaron: Thanks so much Ag, we will have to get you a bag of pear drops sometime soon so you can finally taste this flavour in your wine!
Ag: That would be very, very cool. Thank you!