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The drop: three of the best English wines

Published on August 6, 2020
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Think you know English wines? Natural wine pro Alex Fitton reveals some winning finds you may not have heard of

English wines

I’m going to be honest – I’m not a massive fan of most English wines. I’m not necessarily talking about what ends up in the glass but the methods by which it is produced. Poorly-sited vineyards are often planted with the wrong grape varietals for our climate which leads to an over-abundant use of chemical spraying and unsustainable farming practises. Thankfully, a small and growing set of UK natural winemakers are bucking the trend and producing wines that are exciting and inspiring.

1. Col Fondo 2018 – Black Mountain

Grape: Siegerrebe, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir. Organic conversion + Natural + Vegan + Unfined + Unfiltered. 

Mark and Laura Smith grow only three hectares of vines in Turnastone, Herefordshire. They’re passionately focused on sustainable farming methods, working by hand and keeping things simple in the winery. 

The Col Fondo takes inspiration from original Prosecco production: fermentation is finished off in the bottle, leaving the sediment in for a cloudy, natural style. There is also some skin contact for added texture and aromatics, giving the wine a beautiful warm amber colour. This is a joy to drink, with notes of peach and a fresh lemon acidity which balances the residual sugar very nicely.

Try it out here.

2. Limney Estate Sparkling 2014 – Davenport

Grape: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier. Organic + Natural + Vegan + Unfined + Unfiltered.

Using grapes grown across Sussex and Kent on five separate vineyards, Will Davenport’s winery is to be found at Limney Farm, an old dairy farm which is now completely solar powered. He focuses on caring for the soil in the vineyard, producing healthy grapes and protecting the surrounding wildlife and woodland. 

In the winery, Will prefers a careful, natural approach: wild yeast fermentation, no filtering and no fining agents are used. This is a classic high-end méthode traditionnelle sparkling wine which easily holds its own when compared to Champagne.

Try it out here.

3. Skinny Dip  2018  – Offbeat Wines

Grape: Solaris.  Natural + Vegan + Unfined + Unfiltered.

Former head winemaker at Langham Estate, Daniel Ham sources sustainably-farmed grapes from local vineyards and makes wine completely free of additives at his new Wiltshire winery. 

Skinny Dip is an amber wine made from Solaris grapes picked in 2018 at a vineyard in Devon (managed and maintained without spraying). The wine is macerated for three months in Italian amphora and aged for a further eight months before being bottled without fining, filtration or any SO2 additions. The wine has an amazing burnt orange colour with incredible purity, salinity and spice on the palate.

Try it out here.

WTF is natural wine? Read this.

Bonus bottle: Brut Cremant NV Reserve Sparkling Cider – Little Pomona

Varieties: Foxwhelp (2015), Ellis Bitter (2015), Ellis Bitter (2016). Natural + Vegan + Unfined.

Little Pomona is the creation of James and Susanna Forbes, Hereford Times’ Best Cider Producers 2019. Combining a love of the traditional terroir and history of Herefordshire cider-making with a more experimental approach gleaned from their wine-producing knowledge, they aim to showcase a range of ciders that ‘speak of the land’. 

This méthode traditionnelle sparkling cider is more akin to a crisp and dry Champagne than scrumpy.  Bottle-aged for two years before disgorging, it’s a perfect aperitif. Pair with oysters, chicken, spice or cheese or just a hot summer’s evening.

Try it out here.

Alex is the co-owner of Pullo in Exeter which specialises in natural wines and ciders.

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