Friday, 27 March 2015

The Meunière of Casterbridge: Langham Estate Wines


“One of my greatest claims to fame”, confided the landlord of the local public house, “is I had two Frenchmen in here last week drinking English ale after bottling 40,000 bottles of wine for the local winery”.

The local winery of which the landlord spoke, is Langham Wine Estate. Founded in 2009, the winery was established on the existing estate of the Langham family agri-business, comprising land total over 1000 hectares. Set in the midst of the rolling Dorset hills, near the county town of Dorchester (the inspiration for Hardy’s fictitious Casterbridge), the Estate comprises a single vineyard of 38,000 vines planted out to the prime varieties for the production of sparkling wine, being: Chardonnay, Pinot Meunière and Pinot Noir.

Of course, sparkling wine production is not new to the UK. Dom Pierre Pérignon, the Benedictine monk, is - erroneously - credited with the method for the production for Champagne. However it was in fact an Englishman, Christopher Merret, who presented a paper to the Royal Society on the addition of sugar and molasses in wine to induce a secondary fermentation - the méthode champenoise. That knowledge, coupled with the ability to produce stronger glass bottles, essential to withstand the pressure produced through secondary fermentation, lead to sparkling wine production in the UK.

Vineyard soil profile
Sadly the reformation saw the sacking of many vineyards in the UK, being linked as they were to the monasteries. Thus, sparkling wine production in the UK is seen as a relatively recent endeavour.

Significantly, in geological terms, a prominent band of chalk runs through Dorset in a South-West to North-East orientation, formed in the Cretaceous period, and similar in profile to the chalk soils that provide the foundation for the Champagne region in North-East France.

Grape growing in the UK is not without its challenges. A maritime climate sees total rainfalls in the region of 500mm per annum, with an even spread through the year. Disease pressure in the summer months and late frosts in April, when bud burst occurs, are two such challenges.

Winemaker Liam Idzikowski
Winemaker Liam Idzikowski (pictured, left) commented that flowering occurs about the time of the Wimbledon Tennis Championship and that the weather experienced at Wimbledon can often signify how good a vintage may be. In Liam’s words: “so if Cliff Richard is singing in the stands, it’s not very good”. In more ways than one.
 
Veraison occurs early September with picking from early - mid October. A long, cool growing season perfect for sparkling wine production. All fruit is hand picked and processed on site - providing the inputs for the production of quality sparkling wine.


Wines
Classic Cuvée 2011 £22, 12%, 55% Chardonnay 40% Pinot Noir 5% Pinot Meunière, 11-12 g/l RS (12 is the limit under EU rules). Aged for two years in bottle, Lemony, biscuit, barest hint of stone fruit; tangy, crisp, taut - good spine of acid. Ultra-fresh 91/2

Blancs de Blanc 2011 £26, 12%, 100% Chardonnay. Aromatically more subtle, hints of wholemeal bread; good focus, precision. Mineral, tang - focal acid. Look better with some development. 91

Classic Cuvée NV, £?, 12%, blend of '11 (70%) and '12 (30%), spends a touch more time in barrel. A very poor vintage in 2012, 'never saw the sun'. Oak more evident, shows a touch of kumquat jelly on the back palate, retains a good line of acid. 89/90

Rosé - Yeast cells on the
Riddling machine
Rosé Brut 2011 £23: 2-3% Red wine (estate) added. Shows berry coulis on the nose, hint of cranberry; clean, berry driven palate. Fresh, good hunt of acid. 90/1

Tasted on: Thursday 26th March, a Root to Flower day
Source: Winery Tasting
Price: £22-26
Alcohol: 12%
Closure: Cork
Website: http://www.langhamwine.co.uk/

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Saturday, 14 March 2015

Giesen Fuder Clayvin Vineyard Chardonnay 2012

Tasted blind in a bracket of four Chardonnay, mix of years and regions.

Another barrel ferment Chardonnay, where evidence of that technique is clearly on show. Carried out with an even hand, not assaulting the nostrils: the toast, creamy smoke give the wine a profile that lends gravitas.

Spice, toast, textural - giving a fuller, rounder presence to the wine. None of that skinny, picked far too early nonsense here I add. Nutty, creamy - of substance.

Powerful - holds a line based on the spice that is evident throughout. Impressive. 92

Tasted on: Saturday 7th March, a Fruit to Root day
Source: Sample
Price: $60
Alcohol: 14.5%
Closure: Screwcap
Website: https://giesen.co.nz/

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Friday, 13 March 2015

Cooks Lot Handpicked Chardonnay 2013

Tasted blind in a bracket of four Chardonnay, mix of years and regions.

Handpicked, whole bunch, free run juice. Barrel fermented, partial solids and wild yeast. Some good inputs there, deliberate choices from winemaker Duncan Cook, pursuing a style.

Shows the barrel ferment character floating over citrus - mandarin segments even - with some vanilla creme.

Good old fashioned Chardonnay: butter, spice, lime brulee even; balanced - nice inputs of fruit, acid and residual oak here. Spice dominant. Good going. 91

Tasted on: Saturday 7th March, a Fruit transitioning to Root day
Source: Sample
Price: $35
Alcohol: 13.5%
Closure: Screwcap
Website: http://www.cookslot.com.au/

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Thursday, 12 March 2015

Willow Bridge Estate Dragonfly Chardonnay 2014

Tasted blind in a bracket of four Chardonnay, mix of years and regions.

Classic stonefruit aromas here, a little green melon. Bit of almond husk, a savoury edge.

Texture on entry, pitch and zest, pure and fresh. Pretty good length. Very good for the price on the reveal. 89

Tasted on: Saturday 7th March, a Fruit transitioning to Root day
Source: Sample
Price: $18
Alcohol: 12.1%
Closure: Screwcap
Website: www.willowbridge.com.au

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Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Willow Bridge Estate Dragonfly Chenin Blanc 2014

Fresh, offering up citrus - grapefruit, specifically - with some chalk and wet stone. Touch of husk, sea spray too.

Lemony tang, textural nuance - a little phenolic bitterness; balance of punchy flavour, acid and feel.

Good flavour travel. Pretty good example of a fresh and fruitsome Chenin, a gateway example. 90

Tasted on: Friday 6th March, a Fruit day
Source: Sample
Price: $18
Alcohol: 12.3%
Closure: Screwcap
Website: https://www.willowbridge.com.au/

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Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Ridgemill Estate Merlot 2012

Leads with a sweet perfume that's more in the berry spectrum. With time, and air, that segues to a little wood, olive skin and herb.

Initially juicy, acid feels a touch jangly at first - berry fruit, a little tart blueberry. You start to see glimpses of the savoury edges, and the blue fruit comes back on day two, tannin settling into a good rhythm within itself. Touch and go a point higher 89

Tasted on: Wednesday 4th March, a Leaf to Fruit day
Source: Sample
Price: $30
Alcohol: 14.5%
Closure: Screwcap
Website: http://ridgemillestate.com/ridgemill-estate-wines/

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Monday, 9 March 2015

Guthrie Wines 'Obtenu Bois' Sauvignon Blanc 2013

'Obtenu bois', meaning 'with wood' or perhaps 'got wood', a reference to the fact it is 100% barrel fermented and as per the Guthrie website: " Handpicked from a single vineyard...whole bunch pressed to seasoned French oak hogsheads...juice was then left for a slow, wild ferment. The wine sat undisturbed on fermentation lees for around 12 months before being bottled."

Soft white florals - magnolia and a little vanilla, against tropicals in the realm of a little guava, kaffir lime. But it's also about what it's not, and that is the pungent Sauvignon Blanc that you may be use to, judicious picking and the techniques employed see to that.


It's the palate where the greatest impact is seen. That time on lees and under wood have giving the wine deliciously textural and drying feel. Spice is a factor here, a little ground ginger and a chalky, powdery feel to proceedings. Grown up Sauvignon Blanc, excellently executed. Another fine example of what you can do with Sauvignon Blanc when you show it a little love. 93

Tasted on: Sunday 8th March, a Root day
Source: Gift
Price: $27
Alcohol: 12.5%
Closure: Screwcap
Website: http://www.guthriewines.com.au/

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