Oddly I rather feel as though I have really achieved something by publishing a Wine of the Week every week for the last year, as well as other articles.
I hope that some of you have enjoyed reading about the wines and even tried some of them.
To celebrate the first anniversary of my Wine of the Week I have decided to feature something rather special and delicious. It is an English sparkling wine, which in case you were not aware, is something that England does rather well.
2010 Ridgeview Marksman Blanc de Blancs Brut
Ridgeview is one of the leading English wine estates and do not seemm to have put a foot wrong since they were established by Mike and Chris Roberts in 1994. English wine had been on the cusp of achieving fame ever since the early 1980s and Ridgeview, along with a few other well known vineyards like Nyetimber, really put English wine on the map.
For a start they specialised. They realised that not only was the climate of southern England remarkably similar to that of Champagne, but that the soils were actually identical. The same start of chalk that makes Champagne what it is, comes up under the channel in Sussex. So Ridgeview set out to make world class sparkling wines right from the start.
What’s more, they had an angle, they called their wines Cuvée Merret in honour of Christopher Merret. Merret was a fascinating man, a Fellow of the Royal Society, he was a physician and scientist who lived from 1614 to 1695. He did all sorts of amazing things, but his chief claim to fame comes from a paper that he presented to the Royal Society in 1662. In this he described adding sugar to a wine to make it sparkling, which is the basis of the Traditional Method process as used in the Champagne region to make the wine sparkling. This presentation predates any such method being used in Champagne itself by some 30 years. So, it’s official, the English made fizz before the French.
It takes guts to even attempt to make wine in England. You need to be dedicated and singleminded, probably being boozy minded helps too as it is not easy. Technically speaking as we lie north of 50˚, we are just too cold in these islands to ripen grapes properly, but happily for us the Gulf Stream tempers conditions enough to make it just about possible to achieve a crop of ripe grapes in most years – but not every year by any means.
I have tasted a good few Ridgeview wines in my time and they always impress me. They seem to have an elegance and a purity about them which is exciting and shows just how good English wine can be. Their vineyards are all in the South Downs National Park and they planted them with the classic Champagne grapes of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier – it is astonishing to think that the Champagne region is just 88 miles to the south. Just like in Champagne itself, the cool climate and (hopefully) sunny Autumns, slowly build up ripeness in the grapes, while retaining crisp acidity, which is vital in a good sparkling wine.
Like all English wines, these are artisan wines, hand crafted wines that are produced in tiny quantities, so they are often quite hard to buy. Luckily for us Ridgeview have produced a wine for Marks and Spencer and not only is it more widely available as a consequence, but it is quite superb.
Called Marksman Brut, it is a Blanc de Blancs, so made just from Chardonnay grapes and to allow complex flavours to develop, it was aged for 36 months on the lees – the dead yeast cells left over from the second fermentation.
The wine is quite pale with a persistent mousse of fine bubbles. The aromas are of green apples, minerals,m a touch of ozone and a light dusting of croissant crumbs. At first the palate is very taunt and pure, but it then broadens out to a richer mouthfeel with white peach, tangy apricot, a touch of apples and a pure, almost saline quality, like a touch of the sea. The acidity is crisp and refreshing, while the mousse is firm, yet creamy. This wine is quite superb, with a lightness of touch and a real feel of freshness, but it is less austere, softer and fruitier than you first think. All in all it is a triumph and although a wine like this can never be cheap, it is great value for money – 91/100 points.
Available in the UK from Marks and Spencer for £21.00 a bottle. Stockists for other Ridgeview wines are available here.
Some Ridgeview wines are available in the US, stockist information is available here.
Get patriotic and try this great wine as a perfect aperitif, picnic wine, or garden party tipple. It’s perfect with shellfish, white meat, fish or anything light, actually it’s even good with Thai and Chinese food.