I was honoured to be invited to the inugural tasting of the first ever Blanc de Blancs 2015 by Jenkyn Place Vineyard in Hampshire. The English wine industry is a fast-growing area for wine tourism and British wines are winning awards! There are 522 commercial vineyards and 164 wineries in the UK. Wine production is predicted to reach some 40m bottles by 2040. (Source: Wine GB).
The Jenkyn Place Blanc de Blancs 2015 is made from 8,500 Chardonnay vines. It is a single estate sparkling wine made with 100% Chardonnay grapes (no Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier grapes tradtionally used in making Champagne).
The low yields but concentrated fruit in 2015 made the prospect of producing their first ever Blanc de Blancs an easy decision. After four years on the lees (sediment) the first thing you notice is a beautifully yeasty aroma rather like fresh bread. The flavour in the mouth is an explosion of citrus and verbena, the lemony herb, and a fruity richness, possibly plums (I need to try more to be certain!). The recommendation is to serve with smoked salmon and seafood, lighter cheeses or succulent white meats such as chicken or turkey. Wine though is highly subjective so try wines with your favourites foods to see if they pair well.
The Chardonny grapes were hand harvested, and the bunches gently pressed, just as they are for Champagne, and fermented in stainless steel at 17 – 19 degrees. Ageing took place in old oak Burgundian barrels which adds complexity and a creaminess. Winemaker, Dermot Segrue, (formerly of renowned Nyetimber) used a malolactic fermentation. I don’t know a great deal about this part of the process but I’m learning. This converts tart-tasting malic acid, naturally present in grape must, to softer-tasting lactic acid. Because the wine then rested on its lees for four years (three years is the minimum for a delicious wine) it will continue to mature beautifully. You can’t hurry a very good wine.
Jenkyn Place was originally a hop farm known for its prized hops. The Hampshire land here is chalky and since 2006 is now home to grapes which are making some of the most exciting sparkling wines in Britain.
Lunch was enjoyed in the garden room, accompanied by some vintage wines including a new vintage Jenkyn Place Brut Cuvée 2014. The sun came out and everyone fell in love with Drake the black labrador and his uncle.
Everything’s coming up roses
Jenkyn Place has adopted the French tradition of planting rose bushes at the end of every row of vines – red roses for Pinot and white for Chardonnay. These provide a marker for any plant diseases before they spread. As a commemorative gift each guest at the launch was presented with a packet of rose seeds and a little carved wooden plant marker, beautifully boxed.
Visiting Jenkyn Place
The vineyard is not open to the public except at certain times of the year. Check the web site for dates of tours and to book. If you live in the UK support your local wine grower. www.jenkynplace.com