Hush Heath Estate English winery

Following my recent visit to Hambledon winery in Hampshire I set off for another enjoyable day at another English winery this time in sunny Staplehurst, Kent (Garden of England) and the serene and immaculately manicured Hush Heath Estate famous for its Balfour sparkling wines especially the award-winning Balfour Brut Rosé

The welcome courtyard

Set in 400 acres of vineyards, orchards and woodland this really was a lovely way to spend a few hours strolling around the grounds, visiting the winery and best of all actually tasting the wines.

The tour of the orchard and vineyards lasted about an hour and a half before finishing with a look around their state of the art wine making facilities, unfortunately I couldn’t take any photographs.

During the stroll our guide showed us the orchard where they grow a variety of apples which make their various ciders and apple juice followed by their equally impressive vineyard where they grow the typical Champagne grapes  which are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier for their sparklers.

The tour was informative as well as being very enjoyable and the weather was perfect if a little hot but what impressed me most was how beautifully kept the Estate was, it really was immaculate.

After the tour we assembled in their tasting tent for a sample of two Sparkling wines, one still red and last but not least the cider.

In the tasting tent

Balfour Brut Rosé 

First up was their flagship award-winning Rosé………. This was given a big thumbs up by all who tasted it. Lovely pale salmon colour with a lively stream of fine bubbles. Aromas of Strawberries, plums and vanilla with a  Crisp, refreshing and long finish.

Balfour Leslie’s Reserve

Next was my favourite, named after the producers wife from selected Cuvées.  As I have said before who needs Champagne when English sparkling wine tastes as good as this. With a minimum of at least 12 months Lees ageing this was fresh light and had a fruity sweetness about it. Again universally enjoyed by everyone.

Hush Heath Pinot Noir

Only tasted one of the still wines  which was a Pinot Noir, very fruit forward and light full of cherries and raspberries with a slight herbal kick. Not enough depth for me but it has won awards and I would quite happily drink it, maybe it needed to be  chilled slightly to taste it at its best.

There was also some of the Jake’s Orchard sparkling ciders to try namely Nettle and Strawberry & blackcurrant, if you’re a fan of cider these were very good.

The Sparkling wines were definitely the stars and they were very proud of them and rightly so even if they were a little on the expensive side.

Goudhurst Boutique Inn
My wife and stayed at ‘The Goudhurst Inn’ a few miles away, this boutique pub owned by Hush Heath was the perfect retreat after a hard days wine touring. The pub featured most of the wines we tasted and we enjoyed another couple of glasses of the excellent Balfour Leslie’s Reserve with a very nice dinner.

 

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Chapel Down Bacchus 2015

For anyone who hasn’t tasted the delights of English wine, why not? This Bacchus from Chapel Down winery nestled in the Kent countryside is an absolute beauty, especially for those of you who are Sauvignon Blanc fans.

The only downside I can see to any English vino is the price, most of it tends to be pretty expensive and the CD Bacchus is no exception coming in at anywhere between £10-£14 but unlike some wines I’d be pretty happy to pay full price for this quality. This particular bottle I bought for £9.99 (discounted from Waitrose) which is about the cheapest I’ve seen it, so far.

So what’s it like? well, pretty decent is my view, with its understated plain black label but it kind of works and definitely makes it stand out on the shelf and cries out quality which I must say, it is.

In the glass it’s a very pale straw like colour with pronounced aromas of grapefruit, lemon, limes and something herbaceous. Once that first sip is taken you’ll be hooked on what tastes like fresh nettles, followed by grapefruit, grass and limes. It’s intense and very sharp. Some say it’s the English equivalent of Sauvignon Blanc and I have to say it has a lot of similar characteristics but with a little more of that bracing acidity.

Fantastically refreshing on a hot summers day, this is a quality wine and loved by my wife who regular readers will know is a staunch Sovee Bee fan. I for one will buy this again and when it’s on offer, it’s a tenners worth well spent.

My Rating 8.5/10 Corks

£9.99 ( on offer) Waitrose  usually around £13

Luis Felipe Edwards Gran Reserva Chardonnay 2016

Been a while since I actually reviewed a bottle here, not that I haven’t been drinking any, far from it but after tasting this Chardo (again another daughter abbreviation along with Sovee bee that I must stop saying) I thought I must share my thoughts on this very good Chilean Chardonnay.

Always enjoyed wines from Luis Felipe Edwards and this is up there with the better ones I’ve tasted although it may well be a little intense and slightly over the top for some.

When poured, this was quite a deep golden colour with pronounced aromas of butterscotch, vanilla, tropical fruits and nuts.

After the first mouthful, what is evident straight away is the creaminess and buttery almost fatty flavours along with a touch of vanillary (not sure if that’s a proper word) oak but quickly followed up by peach, pear, apricots, caramel and almonds.

For £7.99 this is a steal and a wine I very much enjoyed, although, as I mentioned earlier, it may not be for everyone, especially if you don’t like buttery Chardo ( Damn it, sorry !! ) but for me this comes highly recommended 👍

My rating 8/10 Corks

Majestic £7.99 (multi buy)

Taste of Spain in London

On the 28th May I attended the ‘Feria de Londres’ in the wonderful setting of Potters Fields Park on the banks of the river Thames overlooked by Tower bridge.

Over the bank holiday weekend the park was transformed into a celebration of all things Spanish including music, flamenco and wonderful food,tapas and drink.

I arrived early, the stalls and stages were being set up and the atmosphere was building as was the smell of different kinds of Spanish foods drifting across the park. There was lots of pop up bars serving ‘Cruzcampo’ beer, white and red wine and the excellent ‘Tio Pepe’ Fino sherry.

From about 12.00pm the sun came out and the festivities got underway as the noise level got louder as more and more people arrived. Before it got too busy I booked myself onto a Iberico Ham and Sherry Materclass and received my complementary drink and food tokens as I was there on behalf of ‘Mid Week Wines’.

With class booked I set out to enjoy the afternoon, first stop was the bar where I got a pretty large glass of chilled Tio Pepe Palamino Fino sherry which was just what was needed as the temperature and humidity was steadily rising.

For those of you who haven’t tasted the delights of Fino and Manzanilla sherry they are a delight with salty almonds and olives and as I found out later a real winner when paired with Iberico ham. This particular bottle of Tio Pepe (which needs to be served very cold) was extremely dry, a little yeasty but with a saline edge which smelled of the sea. There was also some lemon peel in the background and the finish was fresh if a little bitter

Food was next on the agenda and I got myself a freshly made plate of Valencian Paella made up of chicken, broad beans and green beans.

Next up was the Iberico Ham Masterclass with Jose Sol (Spanish ham Master) Complete with more Tio Pepe sherry which complimented the ham beautifully.

Iberico ham is from free-range pigs that roam oak forests (called dehesas) along the border between Spain and Portugal, and eat only acorns during this last period. It is also known as jamón ibérico de Montanera. The exercise and diet have a significant impact on the flavor of the meat; the ham is cured for 36 months. Here Jose taught us about the different styles and quality of ham culminating in the excellent Pata Negra (best quality) ham from the black pig.

As well as the Toi Pepe Jose introduced us to a cold soup like substance called Salmorejo which he actually made that morning (basically soaked bread with tomatoes, garlic and lemon sprinkled with ham and sometimes sliced boiled egg), this again complemented the ham beautifully if a little garlicky. It was a very informative masterclass and big thanks to Jose for sharing his knowledge with us, I certainly learned a lot.

The afternoon and evening carried on with more drink (yes another glass of Sherry), food and Flamenco with  a performance by Tomasito (Flamenco dancer and singer) with lots of ladies and children dressed in traditional outfits.

The Feria de Londres was a free event and I for one will be back next year, Viva Espana

Home of Cricket & wine from a plastic cup

Sorry for the late post, been on holiday but just before we went away our daughter kindly treated us to tickets to watch the one day Cricket international England v Ireland on 7th May at Lords (the home of cricket).

Lords being the only ground that allows you to bring in food and drink, we went armed with a picnic and of course a couple of bottles of wine. Unfortunately the weather was a bit overcast,  so a coat and warm  top was the order of the day but that didn’t spoil what turned out to be a brilliant day.

Nestled in the cooler bag amongst the Chicken Pasta and nibbles were the wines in question, a Brancott Estate 2015 Sauvignon Blanc (Selected by my wife whose a big Brancott Estate fan) and a French Syrah Les Vieilles Vignes Maris 2015  which I bought from Waitrose on offer for around £8.

Now Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc is a wine we always have a stock of and generally everyone in our family really enjoy it. I personally think it’s an excellent everyday Sovee especially for the price and has wonderful aromas of freshly cut grass and fruit salad with the bright flavours of kiwi fruit and crisp green apples perfect for a nice warm sunny day. Unfortunately, at times our side of the ground was in shade and most of us were in jumpers and coats but in contrast the  other side was in bright sunshine and the crowd were all in t-shirts and sunglasses but that’s the British weather for you. It still didn’t spoil our enjoyment  of the game or the wine, even if it was out of a plastic cup.

Now the French Syrah was a bit of a beast but hugely enjoyable none the less and one I would have no hesitation in buying again. Full of rich dark plums, touch of acidity and powerful tannins, there was also a fair lashing of earthiness and spice, this really was a rustic wine with a touch of class.

Oh yeah, the cricket game was pretty good as well with Ireland making a game of it for a while but England’s class showed through in the end and won fairly comfortably  but not without a fight and the odd scare. All in all a fabulous day out good entertainment, good food and good wine.

Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2015

My rating 7/10 Corks

Widely available around £7-£8

Les Vieilles Vignes Maris  Syrah 2015

My Rating 8/10 Corks

Normally £10.99 on offer at time for £8

 

Hambledon Vineyard Tour 2017

Some may say who needs Champagne when we have Sparking wine in this country as good as this, I have sampled a few English wines mostly a tastings and events but it’s not until I tasted these particular bottles (Classic Cuvee & Rose) that I sat up and realised that the Brits actually do make some pretty decent Fizz.

I first tried the Hambledon Classic Cuvee back in January 2016 (and a few times since) and I was so impressed I thought to myself, I must visit the winery sometime soon. Well, it actually took me almost a year and a half but I did finally get around to visiting and let me tell you it was well worth the wait.

I visited with family and friends on the 22nd April 2017 , when we arrived we were personally greeted  by amiable Katrina who is the Wine tour and Education manager, she made us feel really welcome and for the rest of the afternoon was the perfect host and guide with her enthusiasm and wine knowledge and we spent an enjoyable afternoon being shown around the vineyard and wine making facilities, even the sun made an appearance.

Standing by the Chardonnay Vines on the south east slope

The main vineyard incorporates around 100, 000 vines but it was still early in the year and the vines had only just started budding but non the less pretty impressive with its neat immaculate rows of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier vines.

Closer view of the Chardonnay Vines with their two canes

After venturing into the vineyard we were shown the cellar and then onto the main part of the winery itself where the wine is actually made and put into bottles

The actual wine making process is explained here From Grape to Glass the Geology Our Terrior, facts about the Vineyard  and the Wine Making Team

After the tour finished we were treated to a tasting of the Hambledon Classic Cuvee and their Hambledon Classic Cuvee Rose, both excellent but surprisingly our party all agreed on a slight preference for the Rose.

 

 

Bottles resting on lees in the Cellar
French Oak barrels and stainless steel tanks
Sediment ready for disgorging

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hambledon Classic Cuvee

Sat outside in the glorious April sunshine these are my thoughts on both wines.

When poured, this was extremely fizzy with a lively mousse, when it settled the bubbles were very fine and constant. Fairly darkish golden colour with a nose of ripe apples and pears with a hint of biscuit and brioche. On first taste this was taut and refreshingly tart, full of citrus fruits, a little bready but with a lovely creaminess on the finish, which lasted.

 

My Rating 8/10 Corks

Around £27.50

 

Hambledon Classic Cuvee Rose

Don’t really do Rose but I was completely surprised how good this was.

Lovely salmon like colour and heady aromas of fresh red cherries, strawberries and cream. Again lively mousse, with a steady stream of fine bubbles. On first sip I was sold on the intense cherry and cranberry flavour with balanced acidity and creamy finish with a hint of sweetness, lovely stuff.

Everyone in our party enjoyed it and thought it had a elegance about it.

My Rating 8.5/10 Corks

Around £35

 

All in all an excellent afternoon in this lovely part of Hampshire and I can guarantee that I will be drinking Hambledon wines again ! 

Majestic Stratford Upon Avon Fine Wine Tasting April 2017

As regular readers will know that I belong to a wine Forum called ‘Cuvée Reserve’ and once a year our group meet up for a weekend of basically, drinking lots of wine. This year we met at Stratford Upon Avon and we thought we would signed up for a ‘Fine Wine Tasting’ at the local Majestic store. An initial fee of £20 per person was paid but that is redeemable on any wine purchases after the event.

Big thanks to our head girl Clare who runs the forum and for organising everything so superbly !

We arrived at 1.30pm on Saturday the 8th April, an early start for drinking I know but we have to make sacrifices sometime. There was a slight confusion with the time as they had us down for 2.00pm which we found out was their mistake but it wasn’t a problem as we spent the time browsing around the store with a glass of Moet & Chandon 2008 Champagne (is there a better way to shop).

A table was laid out in the corner of the store for us as we finally settled down for the tasting first up was the Moet & Chandon again. This was a beautifully balanced single vintage Champagne full of intense apple and lemon fruit, lively mousse with a pronounced bready, nutty and a creamy aftertaste producing a very long, extremely enjoyable finish and loved by everyone. (Top ups were not refused).

Second wine was a Rosé the Miraval 2015 Cotes de Provence bought by Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie in 2009 and made by the Perrin family. Pale pink almost Salmon like colour with a very strange almost peaty aroma although there was a hint of strawberry, it just smelt a bit weird. Taste wise again it was not what we expected there were elements of soft fruit including strawberry, peach and pear. Slightly flowery but with a slightly overpowering herby, earthy flavour which most of us found a bit strange, think my wife and I liked it more than the others, so overall a little bit of a miss.

Third was the impressive Greywackey 2016 Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region of New Zealand and made by Cloudy Bay former wine maker Kevin Judd.  From the first sip this was universally applauded by all of us. Superb aromas of gooseberry, grapefruit, flowers and damp freshly mowed grass. On first sip it was greeted by a lot of M’mms and everyone thought it was stunning. Crisp and vibrant, soft acidity with intense flavours of  lemongrass, white flowers, gooseberry and herbs with just a hint of subtle oak rounding it off.  Refills all around and the bottle didn’t last long, superb stuff.

The Last white was an unusual oaked Chardonnay from Italy, the Planeta 2015 with heady aromas of butterscotch, banana and vanilla. On first taste I was initially hit by what tasted like barley sugar along with caramelised banana, there was a creaminess about it and the oak definitely stood out, again this split us although nobody disliked it and I thought it was very good.

With the whites finished next up were the reds starting with a Pinot Noir from Martinborough New Zealand the impressive Escarpment 2014 generally liked by all. Pronounced aromas of soft dark fruits, smokey and earthy. Cherry and plums to the fore with a kick of spice on the palate, earthiness coming through but not intrusive. Nicely balanced wine.

Next up was a big favourite, the Chateau Haut Balailley 2011  but it comes at a price for a whopping £40 per single bottle. Cherries, Cassis and classic pencil shavings on the nose. Love the taste, complex yet harmonious, blackcurrants, cedarwoood, herbs, notable tannins and really really drinkable on its own.  As you can see from the picture we emptied the bottle.

A Gran Reserva Rioja next the Marques de Riscal 2007 this is everything a Rioja should be full of red cherries a little strawberry, leather, incense, oak, candlewax and tobacco. Ten year old wine that went down well with everybody including my wife who doesn’t generally like oakey Riojas, fabulous example of what Spain does well.

This was suppose to be the end of the tasting, but the guys at Majestic (who were very good, amiable and knowledgeable) decided we were enjoying ourselves so much that they opened up another couple of bottle for us to try.

First was another French red the Caronne Ste-Gemme 2011 Haut Medoc and again enjoyed by all, dark ripe blackberries, menthol, tannic, rich and chocolately but this time, I’d have to say, more of a food wine but none the less enjoyable.

Last but not least a black Muscat dessert wine called Elysium 2015 even if you’re not a fan of dessert wines you cannot fail to be impressed with this. smells like Turkish Delight and that rose like flavour carries on in the taste, not overly sweet and a big thumbs up from all around the table.

Thanks to the guys at Majestic for a superb tasting, (one of the better ones I’ve attended) they were very generous letting us drink as much as we wanted and we all went away pretty happy if a little unsteady.

My rating 9/10 Corks (for the whole tasting)