English Wines at the Shed
The number of vineyards in the east Kent area seems to be growing each year and we are delighted to be able to offer several of the truly local wines on our shelves in the Goods Shed.
We have sold the wines of Barnsole Vineyard for several years now and under the new ownership of Sal and Phil their range is increasing. We carry Barnsole Kent Classic (medium dry) and the Red Reserve. The white is refreshing and crisp, shows green apple fruit with some pleasing herbal notes and a touch of sweetness. The red has plenty of bramble and raspberry fruit, gentle mellow tannins and has a character similar to the reds of the Loire valley.
Overlooking the Weald of Kent, and lying on the southern scarp face of the North Downs is Westwell Vineyard. This estate has been quietly perfecting its wines and experimenting with different styles over the last years and is now excelling in sparkling, dry white and rosé wines. We carry a couple of the beautifully crafted wines, the Pelegrim Sparkling and Ortega Rosé. The Pelegrim is a fresh, crisp creation with nut, apple and leesy notes, a bright foam and plenty of verve. The rosé, a blend of Ortega and Pinot Noir, is vibrant and dry offering a raspberry and cranberry fruit edge to the citrus of the Ortega.
Closer to Canterbury are three vineyards. In order of age they are Elham Valley, Chartham Vineyard and Simpson’s. The Elham Valley vineyard is run by the Fifth Trust and lies at Breech, just along the Elham Valley from Barham. The small vineyard produces a small range of wines and we carry the Elham Sparkling Brut. It is crisp and fresh with a lemon sherbet character.
The Simpson’s vineyard, set out on two areas on either side of the village of Barham harvested their first grapes last year. They aim to produce high quality, traditional method, sparkling wines and the wines produced from the 2016 vintage are currently maturing in their cellars. From the 2016 a small quantity of still Chardonnay was produced and we are able to offer this wine from our shelves. The wine is typically cool climate Chardonnay with a crisp, lean line of acidity running through its melon, apple and oatmeal fruit.
Chartham Vineyard is situated on a gentle south facing slope just outside the village and is producing wines of delightful quality. In 2015 a small crop was picked and the grapes were blended to create a single wine. The volumes were tiny but in 2016 the vines yielded a fine crop of healthy grapes and some lovely wines were made. The three wines available at the Goods Shed are the Pinot Gris, just-dry, rounded with creamy texture, flavours of pear and fresh cobnuts and a flash of fresh acidity, the Bacchus, fresh, dry, full of elderflower, grapefruit and nettle, and Pinot Noir. This is one of the best, if not the best, English Pinot Noir, which I have tasted. It has a gentle red berry fruit, ripe with a touch of spice. The oak used is well balanced and adds a note of cedar. Importantly the fruit weight is perfectly balanced by the fine ripe tannins.
Another long-term favourite, and by all accounts the oldest ‘working’ vineyard in Kent, is Biddenden vineyard. The wines from this estate can be found throughout the county and we carry the traditional Ortega with its notes of ripe yellow apple and ripe lemon on a just dry, rounded palate which finishes with a clean crisp note. We also offer two of the lower volume but characterful wines, the Bacchus and the Schönburger. The Bacchus has a lovely nettle and kiwi fruit aroma with a dry fresh palate, whilst the Schönburger has a fresh grape, floral character and is medium sweet.
In addition to the wines of Kent we have a selection of wines from other counties.
One of my favourite wine estates is Davenport Vineyards. Will Davenport has been making terrific organic wines for many years. The first vineyard he planted was at Horsmonden, in Kent by the way, but the winery and larger vineyard is over the border at Rotherfield in East Sussex. Will’s wines are always characterful and well made. The Horsmonden Dry White is a refreshing blend, based around Ortega, with citrus, floral and apple notes. It is a delight of spring time freshness. We carry two of his sparkling wines, the Brut and the Auxerrois. Both wines have great depth and lees with plenty of umami richness to balance the bright acidity.
From further afield we have the wines of Litmus. Litmus Wines is based at the Denbies vineyard near Dorking and whilst the company does not own any vineyards itself it purchases good fruit from the southern counties. Head wine maker John Woronstak and his team make stunning wines for a number of English growers and some intriguing creations of their own, pushing the envelope of English wine forward, in a good way. We carry the Litmus ‘Orange’ Bacchus and Element 20.
We also carry the wines of the neighbouring Sussex growers Nyetimber and Ambriel. By the way, Nyetimber have just planted several acres of vines near Canterbury, so perhaps we will have a Nyetimber Kent Selection in a few years.