It has all been happening at Aldwick Estate (formerly Aldwick Court Farm & Vineyard – so three cheers for a shorter name!).
Aside from the re-brand, their eagerly awaited unfiltered Pinot Noir 2015 (a still red!) hit the shelves on 4 June 2018. This wine won a silver medal at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2018 (this is a competition aimed at finding wines for clued up wine consumers). That is a considerable achievement for an English red wine, but we all knew it was good – see my blog The Judgement of Winscombe. Classy wine, classy label.
Aldwick Estate wines are also finding new friends locally and beyond. They are now to be found in Robinsons Brewery establishments in the north, and in Butcombe Brewery establishments closer to home.
This has happily coincided with a marked increase in yield. In 2016 18 tons of grapes were harvested. In 2017 this went up to a whopping 30 tons!
However, what I as an “esteemed picker” wanted to know was what they have done with the precious grapes I so carefully snipped in the 2017 harvest. In other words, what wine would become my wages??
When I finally made it to the annual harvest supper (our car broke down in Weston so I eventually arrived by taxi and my poor husband made the journey via tow truck and our trusty X registered Ford Focus), Elizabeth the vineyard manager steered me to a table and offered me samples of a trio of wines. I was fed too as you can see.
A white wine with a pale lemon green hue which is delicate and light bodied. The acidity level is medium, not the rather bracingly refreshing acidity level normally associated with English wines, suggesting well ripened fruit. There are plenty of appealing fruit aromas and flavours to enjoy, including lemon and grapefruit, gooseberry, passionfruit, ripe lemon, ripe pear, and hints of stone fruits, as well as floral notes of elderflower and freesia. All of these balance out nicely. The finish may be delicate, but it is also long. A very good wine. It reminded me in some ways of the Greenhill Estate Chardonnay 2017 I recently wrote about.
Elizabeth insisted that I work out what grapes were in the blend. I thought there was Bacchus in there, since some of the greener, citric zesty flavours seemed in keeping with what I would expect from it. However the riper stone fruit character must come from something else, and having harvested very ripe sticky Madeleine Angevine in September (see photo), I guessed that there must be some of my grapes in there. This was very early even for Madeleine, as I recall.
Correct thus far, Elizabeth told me that the third element was Seyval Blanc, the three varieties being blended in roughly equal parts. Sadly the Bacchus was not deemed to be of good enough quality to make a single varietal wine with it this year (I helped harvest these, and we selected only the best grapes which took a long time due to a mould issue), which is why it was blended instead.
MARY’S ROSE 2017
I always enjoy this pretty pale salmon pink wine and have written about it before. The 2017 has pronounced inviting aromas of strawberries, redcurrants and apricot with an extra oat biscuit dimension. As with Buteo, the acidity was nearer to medium than high, but it is still fresh and well balanced with redcurrant and strawberry flavours and a mineral edge. The finish is of medium length. A good wine which is easy to drink and which will appeal to many a dry rosé lover.
Pale ruby in colour, this wine delivers fresh aromas of cherries, plums, damsons, loganberries, and rose hips, with hints of strawberries, and a soft floral violet scent. I could not detect any obvious oak ageing flavours, but I suspected oak had been used to mature the wine because its light tannins were very soft and rounded. The acidity was on the high side of medium, which with the juicy fruit flavours created an elegant balance. The fruity finish was medium. A good wine which I thought would appeal to lovers of quality Beaujolais – and so it proved when my husband (a Beaujolaisphile) turned up. It also held up very well to the rare beef and horseradish sauce!
This is a multi-vintage wine, i.e. Rondo and Pinot Noir wine from 2016 blended with early Pinot Noir wine from 2017. The wine had to be filtered because although the 2016 underwent malolactic fermentation (which might further account for the soft texture) the 2017 did not. The 2016 wine was matured in four year old French oak barrels. However the 2017 early Pinot Noir was matured for a few months only in new French oak barrels (two have been purchased, doubtless at considerable expense). This is an exercise in maturation only, since overt oaky flavours such as vanilla or other spices could easily overwhelm the fruit.
So was 2017 a successful vintage at Aldwick?
Undoubtedly. Even though this wasn’t a year to repeat the single varietal Pinot Noir still red wine success of 2015, or even create a varietal Bacchus, I would say that there is a delightful silver lining in the form of Buteo, which was very much appreciated amongst the other “esteemed pickers” present, and which was in my view the better quality wine. It was also my favourite. But all three wines are eminently drinkable. Indeed, production of wine people want to drink is something which, year on year, Aldwick Estate is consistently good at.
The bad news for those of us who want to keep it to ourselves is that Sandy is embarking upon expansion of catering, tastings and tours – who can blame her with such a stunning location! However this means demand can only grow. So snap it up while you can. Meanwhile, I plan to up my hours in the vineyard this autumn to make sure I get my fair share…