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It wasn’t my intention to review another sparkling wine quite so soon but when something so special, so impressive and, frankly, so much of the moment comes along it would be a crime to let it pass....

British sparkling wine is now a force to be reckoned with on the international stage, holding its own against established producers and claiming its fair share of awards for excellence. It’s fair to say that climate change has played its part in enabling British producers to successfully diversify the range of grapes grown and ensure optimal ripeness at harvest, but it’s the skill and sensitivity of the winemaker that makes the crucial difference between the production of pleasant quaffing fizz and something truly extraordinary.

British sparklers are usually made using the same grape varieties as champagne (namely Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir) now grown in comparatively small but steadily increasing volumes. Vintages can be difficult, sometimes disappointing, and many vineyards are still in the embryonic stages of development; production costs are high and retail prices in line with quality champagne cuvées.

Court Garden Vineyards, located in the charming village of Ditchling in East Sussex, was established in 2005 by husband and wife team Mark and Sarah Driver, city professionals and wine enthusiasts turned vignerons. Its seventeen acre site boasts the same chalk and limestone terroir as Champagne’s Côte des Blancs, and the south-facing slope of the vineyard and maritime climate lend themselves to the cultivation of grape varieties perfectly suited to the production of top-class sparkling wines.

I was lucky enough to try two of their mature vintages, both from 2010, demonstrating the effect that age has on a carefully-made sparkling wine. Both are made using the ‘traditional’ method (where secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle) and have been aged on their lees for flavour and complexity.

Made from the classic Pinot Noir/Pinot Meunier blend, Court Garden Blanc de Noirs 2010 has all the characteristics of a first-class white champagne made from black grapes and showcases big, bold and pronounced acidity. In a young wine, this might be too acerbically bracing for even the most robust palates. Whilst still pronounced, eight years of ageing in tank and bottle has softened and mellowed this acidity and provided welcome richness, developing aromas of toasted brioche and zingy preserved lemon. On the palate it is full-bodied, with ripe Bramley apple fruit and a long, dry finish. It has won several awards, including a gold medal at the International Wine Challenge 2015 and silver at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2015.

Court Garden Blanc de Blancs 2010, made from 100% Chardonnay, is lighter and more elegant in style and has been extravagantly decorated, picking up gold medals from the IWC in 2015 and Sommelier Wine Awards in 2014. Despite its age and maturity, it still has fresh peach and apple fruit salad aromas, lively acidity, fine tight bubbles and a delectable, complex dry and creamy finish. ??These two outstanding ‘vintage specials’ are available in very limited quantities and only as part of Court Garden’s 10th Anniversary Collection case, directly from the vineyard online shop. ??Court Garden’s 10th Anniversary Collection case (six bottles) includes the two wines reviewed above, plus Ditchling Reserve, Blanc de Blancs 2013, Sparkling Rosé 2013 and Classic Cuvée 2014, and is priced at £180.00.

 

Richard Dudley Craig, Wine Consultant and Importer

 

 

Court Garden Vineyard & Winery

Court Gardens Farm

Orchard Lane

Ditchling

East Sussex BN6 8TH

01273 844479

www.courtgarden.com

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