Chardonnay 2014 – look to your laurels

August 19th, 2015

There was some pretty good Chardonnay knocking around from the 2014 harvest , this one from Hush Heath is right up there . Unlike the rather austere 2013 the 2014 is made from the lower yielding burgundian clones planted in 2011 in the Middle Strackney Wood vineyard . Picking took place around the 17th of October with sugars of about 10.5 % natural . A very cool and prolonged ferment ( well into the new year) and extended time on  yeast . Benefiting from the complete absence of oak and unhurried bottling . Far too cheap at £16 . It won’t last long.
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Skye’s English Chardonnay 2104 – pale white gold with green highlights . Clean, citrus, thyme on the nose, well balanced backbone of crisp acidity, ripe rich fruit , citrus, grapefruit, apple, complex salty and herby finish . look out Chablis ?

More to follow on Chardonnays from Kingscote , Nutbourne and Highdown 2014s awaiting release.

 

6 Varieties

August 13th, 2015

A unique wine was bottled today at Hush Heath. The sparkling wine is made from six of the grape varieties allowed in Champagne. As well as the classic trio of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier this assemblage includes Arbane, Petite Mesilier and Pinot Blanc, together they make up 35% of the blend which all comes from the Middle Strackney Wood vineyard on the Kent estate. It tastes quite different to a traditional blend, more fragrant perhaps?

Anyway the proof will be in the drinking – maybe this time next year?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2014 and all that

June 13th, 2015

As flowering and Wimbledon approach , we look forward to 2015 but before that a quick look back to 2014.

2014 goes down as one of the wettest and warmest years in England ever. Bud-burst was as early as April 2nd for Chardonnay and Rondo here in Kent. This year (2015) it was around the 15th . Spring frosts were not an issue , the frost pots were fired up twice at Hush Heath more as a precaution than in earnest. Flowering was prolific and early starting well before Wimbledon , set was good and it became obvious at this point that there was potential for a very large crop(7t/a+) Interestingly there was a widespread failure in some older GDC vines to produce anything more than a smattering of rather feeble flowers, not quite sure why, possibly low potential from the previous year.

The year continued warm but damp with high disease pressure catching out quite a few growers with Downey and Powdery mildew causing considerable losses up to 50% + and allowing a foot hold for Botrytis .

The size of the crop was beginning to cause problems for growers who had not green harvested or leaf plucked . The weight of the crop  meant that the vines struggled to ripen in spite of the warmth and early start. The un -even ripeness problem was most acute in the later ripening sparkling varieties Chardonnay and Pinots , particularly as botrytis threatened . Growers were left with the expensive options of selective picking or picking at barley acceptable low sugars and high acids , or risking botrytis and forlorn hope that a large crop would ripen in the last weeks of October . In the end  I would be surprised if half the potential crop in England was actually harvested .

 

Jake’s Kentish Cider

August 13th, 2014

Coming soon to a Pub near you is the latest cider created for Hush Heath. Jake’S Kentish cider is made from the trio of Kent apples,Cox, Egremont Russet and Bramley all grown on the Hush Heath Estate. As you can expect the cider is wine like  in its purity and taste. Made using modern wine making techniques, wine yeasts,temperature control and stainless steel for something quite different, and for traditional cider drinkers quite unexpected . The cider is not pasteurised, but sterile filtered to maintain its freshness. The cider has an ABV of 4.8% and is currently available in 1 way kegs , a 500 ml bottle version will be out and about by the end of August . The cider is being distributed by Cave Direct (info@cavedirect.com). At the moment it can be sampledon draught at The Vine in Goudhurst , The Bull – Devonshire Row and St Barts Brewery – Smithfield.

Drink me

The year so far..

May 10th, 2014

Frost pots at Hush Heath

A wet and comparatively mild spring has led to and early bud burst this year, Rondo and Chardonnay led the way in the South East on the 2nd of April.Pinot Noir and Bacchus followed a few days later. Pinot Blanc burst on April 2nd in West Sussex and over 7days later in Kent. There has been a fair amount of die back in some recent plantings almost certainly due to the sodden year. There seems to be fair proportion of blind buds across most varietals.

Frost has been at the forefront of mosts growers minds . The burners have been fired 3 times this year at Hush Heath and have done their job. Temperatures were not too extreme  and most growers in the South East have escaped quite lightly.

 

English Terroir in Ukraine

March 12th, 2014

The Silver Bird

A strange time to visit Ukraine but I don’t get that many invites and its so much more exciting to say you’re a Flying Winemaker rather than a Driving Winemaker . Ivan Planchkov owner of The Kolonist Winery (about 200 km west of Odessa towards the Romanian border) extended the invite to celebrate the Balkan vine pruning holiday and celebration Trifon Zarezan held on the 15th of February . Traditionally this is the first day that vines can be pruned.(English growers take note) . The promise was of Priests,feasts , wine and dancing.

 

I flew overnight via Moscow . Congratulations to Cafe Rouge at Heathrow for the worst and most expensive food and drink experience of the trip , stale chips and what was alleged to be Gamay but tasted like it had been  to Odessa and back by steamer , open and on the top deck.

I was expecting cold and snow, it was warmer than England and it wasn’t raining. Apparently there had been 2 metres the week before.From Odessa it was a 4 hour drive , mile upon mile of flat black plain, no houses ,no people ,.Maize for Bio -fuel , sunflowers are the main crops .Small trees with their trunks painted white line the pot holed road, not for night time safety but as an insectide. Wild-life is restricted to crows,buzzards and Amy Whitehouse on the radio, the sight of a pheasant caused much excitement .

I arrived in time for a tasting of the 2013 harvest tanks and bottled samples from previous vintages with the Kolonist team and  Olivier Dauga a French consultant about to launch his own line in consultant winemakers clothing. The Kolonist is an ambitious project.The back label shows a map of the 45 th parallel which of course runs through Bordeaux and rather surprisingly Krinichnoye. Temperatures in this area of Ukraine tend to be rather more extreme , down to -30ºC in the winter and 50°C in the summer. Summers can be very dry with no rain for 2 months.The majority of the wines are red, Cabernet Sauvignon ,Merlot and a couple of local reds Odessa Black and Karmarut. Chardonnay , Muscat and Riesling also grown.Their best wines are really very good and expensive (the best wines in the Ukraine) and they have shared an award for best wine with Nyetimber . If you do come across them the Merlot 2012 Kolonist  and the Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 are the pick of the newer wines.The Cabernet /Merlot 2008 is a top wine but now only in the collection.

A medium sweet riesling is made for the  ladies, together with some fortified wines.

Following the tasting it was time for the celebrations and blessings to take place . Sommeliers, journalists and the head of Ukranian wine arrived on mass by coach together with the Priest and Bulgarian/Ukrainian folk dancers and I suspect a rather well known Folk singer.

Blessing the secatuers

Prayers were said, the bread, oil, vines and participants were splashed with Holy Water, the first wines were pruned. everyone joined in . The oil was used to annoint the pruning wounds, bread dipped in the red paprika was eaten.

annointing the vines

Then it was time to dance.

dancers waiting for their big moment

Food and Drink. Hot wine with Honey and pumpkin pastries .

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More food and wine and delicious local vodka.

local brew

A big thank you to my generous host Ivan and the best of of luck to all who looked after me , drove me around, translated , and of course made the wine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Judgement of Parsons Green

March 12th, 2014

The Winner

The surprise winner of the Parsons Nose tasting was Langhams 2010 classic cuveé. I can claim little credit for it but I like to think that my advice has contributed .

The wine is an attractive pale yellow hay colour with a fine bead, almond flower on the nose, well balanced with hints of eucalyptus  or Tunes (for people of a certain age). Probably has benifited with some time on the cork. Currently on their website at £22 a bottle. www.langhamwine.co.uk

 

New cider range for Hush Heath

March 15th, 2013

Engish Terroir has created a new range of Still and Bottle-fermented cider at Hush Heath.Made from apples grown on the Estate and vinified and bottled at the Winery. The ciders are made from pure apple juice , cool fermented in Stainless steel for a wine like character. Bottled in 75 cl bottles and marketed under the Jake’s Tree label.

The Jake’s Tree range from Hush Heath

The still range constists of a pure apple cider bottled in a green burgundy bottle and screw cap and a Strawberry and Blackcurrant friut cider both at 5.4%. The bottle- fermented ciders made in the traditional “champagne method” can be found with nettle and strawberry and blackcurrant , both in clear glass  and mytig corks and at 7.5%

Balfour 2009

January 31st, 2013

The exciting thing about vintage wines, such as the Balfour, are the way they evolve and reveal and reflect the vintage year. The 2009 Balfour Brut is now in wider circulation after a brief Silver Medal showing at last years Olympics.

The 2009 harvest itself took place over 2 days , on the 11th and 12th of October at Hush Heath. Unusually the Chardonnay was earlier than the Pinots with higher sugar (81 oc ) and lower acid (10.6g/l) . The Pinot Noir and Meunier came in at 77 oc and 11.6 g/l , pretty well perfect in other words.

The winemaking followed the usual course, cool separate ferments with a short 6 day separate red ferment for the Pinot Meunier . The final blend worked out at 52% Pinot Noir, 37% Chardonnay and 11% Pinot Mernier, a somewhat higher proportion than usual and a rather deeper pink .

The wine was bottled in July 2010.

From its comparativly youthful beginnings 2009 Balfour Brut is now a wine showing itself in its finest condition. The wine has now been on its lees for over 2 1/2 years . The wine was selected for the Olympics and the ffirst batch was disgorged in March 2012. Since then it has been disgorged on demand at the Hush Heath Winery, giving 3 months on the cork before sale.

A deeper pink than previous vintages, reflecting the higher proprotion of Mernier. The bead is fine and sustained both in the glass and mouth. The nose is slightly creamy,hints of white pepper, dried herbs. The palate is gloriously complex and full, malted shortbread,orange citrus, cooked strawberry and white chocolate . It finishes freshly and long, raspberries and cream.

Decanter – Silver medal winner

Saints alive

January 25th, 2013

When it comes to Saints and wine there is a fair amount of choice and with clever planning it would be possible to be legitimately drunk for up to a dozen days a year . One has to wonder what the wine connection is  with some of them, being grilled on a gridiron seems to have been a popular start.A martyrs death is almost a prerequisite . St Vincent of Saragossa is a case in point, popular in Burgundy , the patron saint of wine and vinegar makers , his day is the 22nd of January , probably not my choice.

More interesting might be St Trifon Zarezan, a Bulgarian vine grower whose meeting with the Vigin Mary  caused him to prune his own nose. Otherwise known as St Trifon the  Drunkard or St Trifon the snub nose , he is much more my style and is so popular that his day is often celebrated twice (for 3 days!?) on the 1st or 14th of February  using the old and new calendar dates. The 1st of Feburary being the traditional date for the start of pruning. (English growers take note) . The more wine poured on these dates the bigger the next harvest.

For those of you who can’t wait for a fortnight St Armand of Maastricht comes to the rescue on the 6th of February . Patron of brewers,innkeepers ,bar-tenders,vine growers, vintners,wine merchants and rather bizarrely Boy-Scouts.

February is a bit crowded  it has to be said , the 17th gives us St Walter of Portnise.

Followers of the orthodox calendar can enjoy  St Nicholas of Myra ( Santa Claus ) on the 9th of March or alternatively on the 6 th of December, St Nicholas is also the Paton saint of Liverpool.

Appropriately there is now a gap until the 3rd of June when St Marand is remembered, chiefly for surviving the whole of Lent on a bunch of grapes. (The miracle of the source of the grapes is not revealed.)

In July we have St Goar of Aquataine  on the 6th and St Urban of Longres on the 23rd. St Urban has some connection and reason to be thankful as he hid in a vineyard to avoid persecution. Not sure how it panned out in the end.

The meteor shower that falls from the Swift Tuttle comet around the 10th of August are know (to some) as “the burning tears of St Lawrence ” . St Lawrence of Rome is another who met his end on the gridiron. Keeper of the Holy Chalice, patron Saint of the  cider making Ampleforth monks, he is more traditionally linked with cooks and chefs.The reliquary containing his burnt head is apparently to be found in the Vatican .

St Martin of Tours, the patron of winegrowers and beggars (appropriately enough)was the first non martyr to become a saint. His day can be  celebrated without guilt on the 8th of November .

If you have not had enough over Christmas, St. John the Apostle gives you an opportunity on the 27th of December or for the Greeks  the 8 th of  May.

Happy drinking.

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