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10 Top Wines to Savour in English Wine Week 2024


Pinot Noir grapes at Exton Park in Hampshire. It's not often that the estate can spare enough Pinot Noir to make a Blanc de Noirs, but thanks to a bumper harvest of excellent quality in 2014 they were able to produce one. It was released this year after ageing on its lees for seven years.


Pray for fine weather from 15–23 June. England’s vineyards and wineries will be throwing open their doors for tastings, tours, lunches, barbecues, concerts, festivals, masterclasses and much more, for English Wine Week 2024. Even if the weather doesn't play ball, it's a great opportunity to get to know England's vines and wines.


This time last year, I highlighted exciting progress in England's still wines. This year, I’m focusing on traditional method sparkling wines, the wines that put Britain on the global wine map in the first place, and I'm starting with three estates whose wines are new to me: Oxney and Everflyht, both in East Sussex (although Oxney is almost in Kent), and Candover Brook in Hampshire.


It’s an encouraging sign of our ecologically conscious times that Oxney is the UK’s largest organic wine grower, producing about 20% of all the UK’s organic grapes on just over 14 hectares (35 acres), while both Candover Brook (5 ha/12.4 acres) and Everflyht (7 ha/17.3 acres) cultivate regeneratively and sustainably. Oxney and Candover Brook planted their vines in 2012. Everflyht started planting in 2016.


The other wines below are a new vintage sparkling Blanc de Noirs from Exton Park in Hampshire (last year I recommended the Blanc de Blancs of the same vintage) and a still wine, Lyme Bay Chardonnay (made in Devon but from vineyards in Essex), several of whose wines I've recommended in the past, including the red Pinot Noir.


A note on scores before we meet the tasting notes: 93 and above is Gold; 89–92 is Silver; 85–88 is Bronze.


Oxney Organic Estate, East Sussex

England’s foremost organic wine estate is the vision and handiwork of Kristin Syltevik, aided by her partner Paul Dobson and, since 2018, winemaking consultant Salvatore Leone. It was some vision. It’s not easy being organic in England – just think of all the rain we’ve had this year – but, judging by the five wines I tasted, not least the three sparkling wines from the challenging 2019 vintage, Kristin has mastered it.


Summer 2019 was by all accounts difficult for England’s growers. Kristin agrees: [It] “wasn’t as good as 2018 and yields and ripeness were down. But that’s why we’re making sparkling wine… Not every year is a perfect still year, but for second fermentation it was a good year. Our site is super ‘cosy’ which is great for ripening once you’re through frost.” There were a couple of spots where powdery mildew hit, which meant careful picking, she added.


Oxney Organic Classic Brut 2019

66% Pinot Noir, 21% Pinot Meunier, 13% Chardonnay, with about 20% of the wine spending time in old barrels. Aged on lees for over three years, then disgorged with a complex liqueur de tirage (dosage) of 1.5g/l made from a solera barrel system, including a portion of the liqueur of the 2018.

Very pale. A first impression of toasted wheat and citrusy fruit, then red apple, peach and a suggestion of walnut cream and homemade vanilla ice cream, finishing with lingering, distinctively English, lemony acidity. Fine-boned and balanced. I liked it even more on days two and three when both the bubbles and the acidity had softened slightly. 11.5%. 91


Oxney Organic Blanc de Blancs 2019

100% Chardonnay from different parcels throughout the vineyard. Each parcel pressed and fermented separately, some in older Burgundy barrels. Blended then aged on lees for over three years. Dosage 3.2g/l.

Pale straw. Fine bubbles. Fresh, delicate lemon, oystershell and nut patisserie notes. Sophisticated and elegant with fluent acidity. Not exceptionally long, but beautifully balanced and enjoyable. 12%. 93


Oxney Organic Rosé Brut 2019

100% Pinot Noir. Whole bunch pressed and fermented to dryness, partly in barrels. Components blended and still red Pinot Noir added in April 2020. Disgorged after only 15 months on lees (“to preserve the intense fruit and freshness”). Zero dosage.

Salmon pink. Fine bubbles. Fruity red berry aromas – strawberry, cherry and pomegranate. Succulent, fruity, dry, soft-textured palate with an attractive hint of bitter cherry freshness on the finish and well balanced acidity. Proof that extended lees ageing isn’t always the be-all and end-all and if the grapes are ripe enough England's sparkling wines don't necessarily need and sweetenting dosage. 12%. 91+


Oxney Organic Chardonnay 2022

Picked mid-October after a textbook, hot, sunny, dry summer. Part wild-yeast fermented, more than 70% in oak barrels (just over 5% new), the rest in stainless steel.

Very, very pale. Appealing, fresh, gently nutty Chardonnay nose – a bit like a cross between a Muscadet cru and Chablis. Light-bodied, elegant limey-lemony fruit, nutty roundness and perfectly modulated acidity. Dry. graceful, polished. 11%. 91

£24.99, Oxney Estate


Oxney Organic Rosé 2022

Made from Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, this is pale, dry and delicately textured, with gentle floral, peach, red currant and berry aromas and an airy, rounded palate streaked with red currant, orange zest and vibrant acidity. 11.5%. 90


Candover Brook, Hampshire

These are the debut releases from Candover Brook, which is named after the chalk stream that runs through the Sainsbury family’s Hampshire farming estate and is a habitat for the rare English white-clawed crayfish. (I do love such details.)


The wines may be new but the gestation has been long. The vines were planted in 2012 by the late John, Lord Sainsbury (former chairman of Sainsbury’s), and his sons Mark and Julian, who now run the estate.


Hervé Jestin, who John Sainsbury got to know decades ago in Champagne when he was making one of Sainsbury's own-label Champagnes, has been the consultant all along. "It's Hervé who has created what we've got," Mark Sainsbury says. "He's the most sympathetic, understated genius you'll come across."


The vineyard team is co-employed with The Grange nearby and the wines so far have been made at Hambledon.


The bumper 2018 vintage was obviously a great way to kick off, since when there have been some tricky years in terms of quantity, thanks to frosts and, in 2021, to disastrous mildew, but Mark says they've been happy with the quality, ripeness and consistency.


Despite acidities being "just a little high" in 2023, he says he's thrilled with the quality of the wines which they have just been blending. And as a bonus they produced a little more than in 2018.


What of the future? There's a prestige cuvée 2018 to come (about 1,000 bottles), a fuller style that has spent longer on its lees and seen some oak, and when the season is right they will make a Blanc de Noirs and Blanc de Blancs.


But there are no plans to go big. Despite their supermarket background, on this project, says Mark, "We have an artisanal mindset, obsessing on quality." Taste the wines and you'll see what he means.


Candover Brook Brut NV

58% Chardonnay, 28% Pinot Noir, 14% Pinot Meunier. Base wine 2018 (an outstanding year) vinified in stainless steel with 3% reserve wines from a solera dating back to 2011 (from Hambledon where the wines are made). Aged for 42 months on lees. Dosage 5.75g/l.

An expressive nose of brioche, nutty sweet apple (like Egremont russet) and floral notes. Immediate, intense and expansive on the palate, with crunchy ripeness, rich texture and finely chiselled acidity making for complexity and mouthwatering drinkability. 12%. 94

£37–£41.95, Candover Brook, Philglas & Swiggot, The Naked Grape, The Wine Yard


Candover Brook Rosé NV

54% Chardonnay, 33% Pinot Noir, 13% Pinot Meunier. Base wine 2018 (an outstanding year) vinified in stainless steel with 15% reserve wines from a solera dating back to 2011. At least 7 months on lees. Dosage 9g/l.

Candy pink with a lively mousse, lush summer-pudding fruit and a drift of fragrant jasmine. Succulent red-berry fruit on the palate with brioche, shortbread and a rich, creamy texture lifted by gleaming acidity. A delicious, polished rosé. 12%. 94


Everflyht, East Sussex

A trip to Napa Valley and a fondness for sparkling wines were the impetus for husband and wife, Ben and Sam Ellis, to set about creating the Everflyht wine estate. The curious name was inspired by the six martlets of the Sussex crest, mythical birds that are said never to land – to be ‘ever in flight’. The vineyard & viticulture manager is Luke Spalding.


Everflyht Brut NV

60% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir, 10% Pinot Meunier, picked 5–7 October 2020, Meunier first, then Pinot Noir, then Chardonnay. Vinification in stainless steel with 12% in French oak barrels, old and new. Blending, including 5% reserve wine, and bottling took place in July 2021. Disgorgement was exactly 24 months later, with a dosage 1.7g/l.

Very pale with a fine mousse and fragrant peach and apple aromas. Bone dry with laser-sharp acidity, toast and roast-almond depth and raspberry and green-apple fruit. It's slightly austere, but given a little more time it should relax nicely. 12.2%. 90


Exton Park Blanc de Noirs 2014

100% Pinot Noir from a single plot within the Hampshire estate’s single vineyard of 24 ha (60 acres). No malolactic or oak. Aged on lees for 7 years. Disgorged in 2022 with a dosage 6g/l. This is only the second vintage Blanc de Noirs from Exton Park and the first to be released for 6 years.

Pale lemon colour. Pin-prick bubbles. Intense, lively, sweet-lemon freshness with roast almonds and hazelnuts, biscuity, creamy depth and exhilarating sea-breeze freshness, minerality and acidity. A wonderful combination of precision and vitality, maturity, breadth, depth and length. It will drink well into the next decade. 11.5%. 95


Lyme Bay Chardonnay 2021

A blend of Chardonnay from five vineyards picked as late as in 31 October–7 November in the Crouch Valley area of Essex, which is not only warm and relatively frost-free, thanks to the river, but has smectite-rich clay soils not dissimilar to those of Château Pétrus. Fermented in a combination of stainless steel and oak using selected Burgundy yeast strains followed by full malolactic and ageing on fine lees with some bâtonnage.

Stylish, ripe citrus, peach and pineapple fruit carried by crisp acidity and creamy cashew nut and toast. 12.5%. 92


For more details and links to English Wine Week events around the country, head to WineGB.



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20 jun

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