To celebrate English wine week, running from Saturday 27 May to Sunday 4 June, I've chosen some top quality, Champagne-style sparkling wines from three Hampshire Vineyards. They're part of a group of Hampshire vineyards that have banded together to promote their wines. All eight wines have retail stockists, but ideally, of course, you'd taste them in situ (quick – get out there while the weather is good!).
This isn't one of England's, or Hampshire's, best known producers, but it's one to watch. I was impressed by both wines, which holds promise for the first Blanc de Blanc, currently still ageing. The owners, the Liddell family, have just over 12 hectares planted with classic Champagne varieties, plus a little Pinot Précoce, in chalk-rich soil in the heart of the Test Valley. They don't have a winery, so winemaker Hugh Liddell, who worked in Burgundy and trained at Plumpton, blends the wines and does the dosage at Hattingley Valley. Clearly it's working well. cottonworth.co.uk
Cottonworth Classic Cuvée
The aptly named Classic has a fine mousse, delicate floral, creamy nose, citrus and red-apple fruit and appetising chalkiness. The blend is 60:27:13 Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier; the base wine is 2013 with some 2012; and the dosage is a restrained 6.5g/l.
Cottonworth Sparkling Rosé
A delight! Floral scented with lovely summer-pudding fruit and a fresh orange edge to the racy acidity. It’s a Pinot-dominated blend, but not the usual: there’s 43% Meunier and 32% Pinot Noir, plus 7% of the early ripening Pinot Précoce, which winemaker Hugh Liddell says is a great advantage in England, especially for rosé. It had 27 months lees ageing and a dosage of 9g/l.
This is one of the best known and longest of established English wine names and is currently on a roll. The 20 hectares of the three Champagne varieties (100,000 vines in all) are on the slopes of Windmill Down around the house (before you ask: the windmill is no longer there). hambledonvineyard.co.uk
Hambledon Classic Cuvée
A 60:20:20 blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. There are sweet apple, nougat, nut and flowery notes on the nose and the palate is stylish, bright, chalky textured and well sustained. It’s 2013 with 10% reserve wines that include a small oak-aged component and it was on lees for 20 months. Dosage: 6g/l.
Hambledon Première Cuvée
A step-up from the Classic and a great ambassador for English sparkling wines, with its toasted wheat and macaroon depth, pristine fruit, creamy texture and defining acidity. It’s a similar, Chardonnay-based blend to the Classic, but with a little more Pinot Noir and aged on lees for more than twice as long – 42 months. It’s based on 2011 with 15% reserve wines, including some that were oak-aged. Dosage: 8g/l.
Hambledon Classic Cuvée Rosé
A juicy strawberry nose with hedgerow berries and herbs on the palate, attractive succulence and zesty acidity, but without the aged depth of the Classic or Première cuvées. It’s 90% Chardonnay with 10% Pinot Noir, mostly from 2014 but with 5% reserve wines, of which a small amount was oak-aged. Dosage: 10g/l.
Although the first vineyard was only planted in 2008 and the eco-friendly winery didn't come into service until two years later, Hattingley has established itself as one of England's foremost producers. hattingleyvalley.co.uk
Hattingley Valley Classic Cuvée 2013
An almost classic Champagne blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier (48%, 33%, 17%), except that there’s 2% Pinot Gris. Who knows? But it works. This is classically floral and wheaty with citrus fruit purity, supple texture and nicely tuned acidity. It had 21 months on lees, 25% oak fermentation (used white Burgundy barrels) and 9g/l dosage.
Hattingley Valley Blanc de Blancs 2011
Four years on lees and a barrel-fermented component (10% in four-year-old white Burgundy barrels) have brought a creamy, toasty richness to the sweet lime-scented fruit and fresh, mineral structure of this vintage Chardonnay. As with all Hattingley sparkling wines, the dosage is 9g/l.
Hattingley Valley Rosé 2013
Textbook English sparkling rosé: very pale with the prettiest of raspberry and strawberry flavours and grapefruit acidity. Fresh and lively, but also meltingly supple. It’s 59% Pinot Noir and 36% Pinot Meunier with 5% of England’s secret rosé weapon, Pinot Précoce.15% was barrel fermented and it was aged on lees for 18 months.
Photograph by Joanna Simon