By Luisa Welch, AWE
This May we celebrate all things English with rich offerings from nature such as asparagus, new Jersey Royal potatoes, wild garlic, spring onions and the first strawberries of the season. So, what better way to enjoy the month and welcome the long-awaited warmer weather, than with an array of wines which evoke Spring, starting with delightful glass of sparkling English wine.
The romans are widely believed to have introduced winemaking to Britain, and we know that Henry VIII enjoyed his wine. He had 11 vineyards producing royal vintages out of a total 139 vineyards around the country. From mid 19th to mid 20th century English wine production was reduced drastically and it wasn’t until after World War II that winemaking in England started to make a comeback. Today, there are over 500 vineyards across England and Wales. Vineyards are found across almost the whole of England but the climate of the South and the South East makes it a popular area for growing vines – especially in Hampshire, Sussex and Kent.
Gusbourne Brut Reserve
Gusbourne is one of the top producers in Kent, and one which I have long admired for the quality of their justifiably award-winning wines. Nestled in the Kent countryside, the Gusbourne estate, which dates back to the 1400’s, was recently taken over by Charles Weeber, with the aim to create an English sparkling wine that would stand up amongst the best in the world. And he succeeded. His Gusbourne Brut Reserve has won more awards than I can list. Championing low intervention and sustainable vineyard management, they grow mainly Burgundian clones of Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir which yield smaller volume, higher quality and intensely flavourful fruit, which thrives in a unique microclimate. Grapes are hand-picked, then pressed in whole bunches, and the juice undergoes extended ageing on lees. Crafted in the traditional method, just like Champagne, this Brut has a bright gold colour, and the blend creates aromas of cherry, strawberry and a streak of citrus. There is an attractive brioche character with a touch of cinnamon and spice, but the fresh acidity leaves the palate refreshed and clean.
The winery’s cutting-edge technology has contributed to Gusbourne building a reputation as an outstanding wine producer.
This excellent English sparkling wine pairs perfectly with asparagus, fish and Jersey Royal potatoes, and strawberries.
Dry Furmint, Chateau Dereszla
For a great dry white wine relatively new on the market, and ideal for Spring, look to Eastern Europe, and to Hungary in particular. Furmint, the grape of Tokaj and better known for making those luscious, world-class sweet wines dreams are made of, is finally having its moment, and rightly so. Historically associated with sweet wines, Furmint is being increasingly used to make dry whites and is steadily infiltrating wine lists across the UK. Five years ago people didn’t know what dry Furmint was, but lately there has been a real shift and an interest in the wine.
The versatility of the Furmint grape is incredible, with some of the dry wines showcasing the smokiness from Tokaj’s volcanic soils, whereas others made in stainless steel tanks, have more of a mineral quality. Hungarian oak is also prevalent in many of the wines, giving them a creamy texture and a hint of spice.
One definitely to try is Dry Furmint Chateau Dereszla, and you will find it on the winetrust.co.uk wine list. Situated in the heart of the Tokaj region, Chateau Dereszla dates back to the 18th century. The large diversity of soils throughout the 27 hectares of vineyards, is a crucial factor in the complexity of the wine. Today, the cellars boast state-of-the-art winemaking technology, backed by a team of experts passionate about the wines they produce.
This lovely Dry Furmint is blended with a small percentage of Hàrslevelű, the other white grape of Hungary, to produce an easy-drinking wine with notes of citrus, and firm, crisp acidity. Pale in the glass, you will find hints of apple on the nose, and a dry, spicy palate. Lovely with salads and pasta dishes.
Minuty Prestige Côtes de Provence Rosé
Nothing encapsulates the arrival of the warmer weather like a rosé wine from Côte de Provence: enter Minuty Prestige Rosé, one of the latest addition to the winetrust.co.uk list.
This is probably Côte de Provence’s best known winery. It’s the archetype of Provence rosé, instantly recognisable in its slender bottle, delicious, elegant and refreshing, and it probably offers better value and taste than any other Provence rosé wines.
Chateau Minuty was built in the mid 1800’s and was purchased in 1936 by the Farnet family, and quickly became recognised as one of the region’s benchmark properties. This status was confirmed in 1955 when Minuty became one of just 14 Chateaux in Provence to be designated as Cru Classé. Its wines are found on the best wine lists of the best restaurants on the Côte d’Azur.
Today the estate continues the family’s focus on quality by reducing yields, building a new winery, replanting Carignan and Ugni Blanc grapes with Grenache Noir and Vermentino, and pioneering the use of ‘pressurage direct’ in the production of their rosé wines. This involves taking the first free-run juice that is released by loading the press with the grapes. The weight of the fruit is enough to bring about a light pressing and this premium juice is run off to be fermented separately, giving a rose’ wine with sumptuous texture and elegance.
Minuty Prestige Rosé has an intense aroma of citrus and white flowers, which give way to flavours of grapefruit and red berries. The wine blends Grenache for its elegant aromas, the top Provence grape Rolle for its earthy aromas, Syrah for its aromatic complexity and Cinsault for its vibrancy. Because the owning family is based in Saint Tropez, small amounts of the local Tibouren grape grown there are also added. This imparts a distinct ocean salinity to the wines, and a mineral streak runs through it, giving it substance and adding interest.
Bodegas Garzón Reserve Albariño
Make this a spring of wine discoveries by sampling another super fresh white wine from a grape you already know, Albariño, but from a country you may not expect, Uruguay.
I recently tasted a whole range of Albariño and other wines from Uruguay, and I was more than excited by them.
Nestled between Argentina and Brazil, Uruguay is the fourth largest wine producer in South American with 18m litres. With a mild, Atlantic climate, Uruguay is more comparable to European wine regions than its Latin American neighbours, which have continental, pacific or subtropical influences. Its climate is similar to that of Portugal – a small place with maritime effect and variable weather. With these similarities, the Albariño grape, widely grown in Northern Spain and Portugal, does very well here.
Bodega Garzón Reserve Albariño is my current go-to wine from this up and coming country. Originally an olive farm, Bodega Garzón also showed a huge potential for producing premium wines. Over the past 10 years, vineyards have rubbed shoulders with olive groves, with 12 grape varieties planted on the estate, blessed with the cooling Atlantic breeze and well draining granitic soils. The owners wanted to produce wines that not only did justice to the environment, but also represented the historical culture of Uruguay. Today, they boast the accolade of being the first certified sustainable vinery outside North America, producing up to 2.2m litres of wine with the utmost respect for the environment. The wine is pale yellow in colour with fruity aromas, stunningly fresh and balanced, with notes of citrus and peach. There is superb minerality on the palate, good acidity and a juicy fruit finish. Totally delicious and perfect with seafood and Asian food.
Pieropan, ‘Ruberpan’ Valpolicella Superiore
For the cooler spring evenings, you might want to try something red but relatively light.
Valpolicella is an ‘Italian mystery’ – it’s the name of a much maligned wine in the 80’s but is also an important viticultural zone in the province of Verona, east of Lake Garda. Valpolicella meant a mass-produced wine that achieved popularity because of its mellifluous name, but sadly what was imported into the UK was a rather thin, insipid wine. Yet the same grapes that made Valpolicella also made its sibling, the highly praised Amarone, from exactly the same area.
Fast forward a few decades and today we are finally spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing a good Valpolicella. There is much better vineyard management, the different grapes used for the blend are no longer picked at the same time, irrespective of their stage or ripeness, and the wine is made with care by responsible producers.
Pieropan ‘Ruberpan’ Valpolicella Superiore 2020 is a prime example of an excellent Valpolicella.
The Pieropan family have been producing wines in the area since the 1890’s, and they were the first producers in the area to bottle a wine with the name Soave on the label. And they were the first producers in Soave to make a single vineyard wine, ‘Calvarino’.
For their red wine, they planted Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella and Croatina on south facing vineyards to ensure excellent ripening of the grape varieties used to make Valpolicella. The limestone and clay soil and the windy and dry micro-climate are ideal for the production of rich yet fine and elegant wines, which incidentally are today certified organic.
Valpolicella Ruberpan Superiore is made from fresh grapes rather than with the traditional dried or Ripasso styles. This wine was aged in small and large barrels for 18-24 months. ‘Superiore’ is like Valpolicella Classico but with more body and a bit more alcohol, and it must be aged for one year minimum, although many producers like Pieropan choose to age their wine in oak and for longer. The wine is a brilliant ruby red, has lots of crunchy red fruit flavours and a little vanilla, clove and smoke aromas. The beauty of this wine is that you can enjoy it now, but it has the potential to age well. I like a young Valpolicella slightly chilled (not cold), at ‘cellar temperature’, and it’s perfect with a platter of charcuterie with rustic bread, or vegetable crudités.
Take inspiration from my spring wine choices and browse all our wines here at WineTrust.