I’ve already picked my five favourite reds, now here are five of the whites which stood out for me at the Ely Big Tasting:
Bride Valley Brut Reserve 2014 (12.0%, RRP ~ €54, Liberty Wines)
Bride Valley is a producer named after a place of the same name in Dorset on the south coast of England (it’s between Hampshire and Devon (I had to check as I’m a Northerner myself). The estate is owned by Steven Spurrier and his wife Arabella; Steven is a former wine merchant, a wine educator and a wine writer, and is perhaps most famous for hosting the “Judgement of Paris” in 1976 (though he wasn’t too happy to be portrayed by a 60+ year old Alan Rickman in Bottle Shock!). The soil is said to be similar to Champagne, though I think it’s probably more technically accurate to say that Champagne has similar soil to this part of Dorset as the village of Kimmeridge (whence Kimmeridgian) is close by!
The blend is “typically” 50% Pinot Meunier, 30% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir, the three main Champagne grapes, though not seen in these proportions that often. It’s not the most complex English sparkler I’ve tried, though that’s understandable as it’s a very young estate – but it’s simply a delicious wine, and dangerously quaffable!
O Luar do Sil Valdeorras Godello Sobre Lias 2015 (13.5%, RRP ~ €30, Mitchell & Son)
The Rodero Villa family had been making fine Ribero del Duero wines at Pago de los Capellanes for two decades before they set up an outpost in Galicia, north west Spain. Valdeorras is Godello country with a cool climate that encourages a long growing season and lots of aromatic compounds in the wines. “O Luar do Sil” apparently means “The Reflection of the Moon on the river Sil” – though I presume this only applies at night…
Anyway, the wine itself is delicious – fresh, green fruit with creamy richness from six months on fine lees. Wines like this reinforce my view that Godello can make wines equally as good as – if not better than – Galicia’s other prominent white grape Albariño.
Mahi Estate Boundary Farm Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (14.0%, RRP ~ €26 Quintessential Wines)
I’ve already written about this wine in 2017 but I make no excuses for repeating myself – it’s an excellent wine. Don’t think that this is “just another Marlborough Sauvignon”, it’s far more than that: smoky, funky and citrusy all at the same time. If anything I think this is tasting better than it did earlier in the year, but should keep on developing for several years.
Maison Ambroise Côtes de Nuits Villages Blanc 2013 (13.0%, RRP ~ €28, Le Caveau)
Maison Ambroise are better known for their red wines (as is the Côtes de Nuits in general), with a history going back to the 18th century. The vineyards were reinvigorated by Bertrand Ambroise in 1987 and the amount of land under vine increased to 21 hectares. Organic certification came in 2013.
Oak is used sparingly to add complexity and mouthfeel – details weren’t immediately available but I suspect that any new oak was only a fraction of the total. This is a superlative white – for a relatively modest outlay – so beware, it might just be the wine that gets you hooked on white Burgundy!
Jean Thévenet Domaine de la Bongran Viré-Clessé 2010 (14.0%, RRP ~ €33, Wines Direct)
Viré-Clessé is in the Maconnais, the southernmost sub-region of Burgundy proper before Beaujolais, so the fruit is nearly always riper than Chablis at the other (northern) end of Burgundy. Jean and Gautier Thevenet go even further with their Domaine de la Bongran grapes – they leave them on the vine for several weeks longer than all their neighbours, resulting in powerful wines. The high sugar levels at harvest time combined with natural yeast means that fermentation can take months and months. Such is the richness of the wine that you might think there’s oak used along the way, but not a bit of it. This is an unusual style of Chardonnay that really needs to be tried!