Helen’s blog

Thoughts and tastings from Helen Savage, wine writer.

Chapel Down

I’ve already commented about the successful partnership of two English wines from Chapel Down with Chinese food. Here are my notes on all the Chapel Down wines I tasted at Tenterden with Frazer Thompson, the Managing Director of the English Wines Group:

Vintage Reserve Brut NV

A slightly an odd name, I think, for a non vintage wine, but this blend of around 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Reichensteiner and Muller Thurgau is skilfully done and will surely only get better in future years as more premium grapes are included in the blend.  It has had 18 months on the lees – just enough to give it a little creamy complexity alongside the slightly floral character of the fruit. It’s fairly dry (around 9 g/l dosage), clean, fresh and rather appley.

English Rose Brut

A palish, salmon pink bubbly based on the Vintage Reserve Brut. It manages to taste significantly different, with a definite hint of redcurrants and fresh, clean, but softer fruit .

Brut Rosé NV

A very delicate onion skin rosé, with a distinct red fruits character – raspberry and strawberry. It’s 100% Pinot Noir and though non-vintage, the present release is actually from the generous 2006 harvest. It has an attractively long, biscuity finish.

Pinot Reserve 2004

A blend of 72% Pinot Noir and 28% Pinot Blanc (Chardonnay will feature in future releases). It is quite a deep straw colour and has a distinct Pinot Noir nose – rich and biscuity, but is balanced by clean citrus acidity with hints of apple. It’s remarkably fresh for a wine that has spent five years on the lees (it isn’t Chapel Down’s policy to cork age – wines are disgorged and sold).

Bacchus 2009

I’m much taken with this: it’s clean, slightly floral and has more than a suggestion of exotic fruits, guava and passion fruit as well as peach. It’s relatively light in the mouth, clean, fresh and juicy and with quite a mineral finish. I’m delighted to see that its already on Waitrose’s shelves – just a few weeks after bottling.

Bacchus Reserve 2006

A selection of the best grapes. It’s certainly more complex than the simple wine and has with greater length, but is, I think, a little less fun than the outstanding 2009.

Flint Dry 2009

Another success. The 09 blend includes around 30% Chardonnay and has good, lean, apple and peach fruit, with quite a creamy texture. It is softer and fruitier than its name suggests.

Pinot Blanc 2006

The outstanding still wine of the tasting – a lovely, gently, smoky apple aroma matched by a ripe apple flavour, and a much more substantial mouth-feel than its 10% alcohol might suggest.

English Rose 2008

The wine that really came alive with fine Chinese food is perfectly nice  on its own: perfumed, spicy and a little herby, with strawberry fruit.

Cinque Ports Classic 2006

An English classic in the catty, slightly sweet style. To be more polite, it has quite a pungent aroma of grapefruit and elderflower and a medium-sweet flavour that finishes a little short and bland.

Rondo/Regent/Pinot Noir Non-Vintage

Quite deep coloured, soft, easy, juicy, but not a lot of definition.

Pinot Noir (Tenterden) 2008

What a difference! A perfumed, spicy, true Pinot Noir, with real complexity. It’s every bit as good as some more expensive cool-climate  Pinot Noirs coming out of Germany and Alsace.

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