Funky English varietals at the annual trade show(w/ video)

Huxelrebe, Siegerrebe, Regner, Schönburger. The ill-fated cast of characters from an little known Wagnerian opera? “Reichensteiner and Würzer are dead” -The original title? Rondo, Ortega, and Phoenix. The Mexican villains from a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western? Madeleine Angevine. Latest X-Factor winner? Triomphe. A sports car? Orion – oh, I know that, that’s a constellation, right? Well, yes and no. Orion is a constellation but it’s also a cool climate hybrid varietal used in England to produce wine.   In fact, all of the above are just some of the rather esoterically named varietals that have been put into use to produce English still and sparkling wine. Along with the more familiar müller thurgau, dornfelder, and bacchus, and the downright prosaic chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. I just love the monikers of this cast of characters but what have the English been doing with their wackily named varietals? There are two opinions about English wine. One, the still wines are a work in progress. Two, the sparklings, though, are winners. I had the chance to put the wines to the test at the recent English wine producers Annual Trade Tasting. The show was an opportunity for us to see what those English have been up to and the launch of English Wine Week 2009. English Wine week will be held at the end of May (23rd-31st) and encompasses a variety of activities including tours, tastings, and special events in vineyards around the country. There are also plans for a Welsh Wine Week and a Devon Wine Week alongside the English events. All events can be found on their website,  I found that the whites were not quite ready for prime time. They were competently made and drinkable but nothing really shouted out to me except the one varietal that I discovered and actually liked, the Madeleine Angevine, a white grape that produced some lovely dry and fresh wines, aromas of orange blossoms and white flowers with nice acidity and rounded body but no flabbiness. It reminded...

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Mersea Island Vineyard -English wines in Essex

I was wandering around the Southbank over Easter Weekend and stumbled upon a slow food market set up outside the Royal Festival Hall. I like slow food and the slow food movement as much as the next person but what really made my eyes light up was the English wine booth I found nestled between the English oysters and Stilton cheese. Mersea Island Vineyard had their entire range out for a taste. Mersea Island is situated in the estuaries of the Blackwater and Colne rivers, about 8 miles south of Colchester, Essex. To you and me, it’s way east of London, about as far as you can go. According to their rep manning the booth, Claire, legend has it that there have been grapes on the island since Roman times. The vineyard is also situated facing south so as to get as many rays from the sun as possible. The vineyard has been around since 1985 and they grow 5 different varietals, muller thurgau, ortega, chardonnay, pinot muenier, and reichensteiner, cool climate varietals which do very well here in the English clime. I tried all four wines they had on tasting. I started off with their dry white, the  Mersea Native, (£8.75) made with the reichensteiner varietal. It said dry on the label but I thought that was debatable. On sipping,it had an elderflower character to it on the nose and palate, not exactly dry either. I would have said it was off dry, it was very fruity but did have good acidity. After that I went for the Mersea Vintage Sparkling Wine, (£15.00)a blend of chard, p. muenier, and reichensteiner. They make their sparklings in the traditional method thus producing a wine with a slighty nutty character, ripe apples and rather big bubbles for a method traditional made wine. It was dry but had a short finish. I then tipped back the “Summer Days“, (£8.50)medium-dry white, made with muller-thurgau. This one to me seemed drier then the previous one with  lovely grapefruit aromas and flavours. It didn’t seem medium dry...

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English Sparkling -Balfour Extra Brut Rose

When I went to the European Winebloggers Conference in Rioja, I brought along an English rosè wine as my contribution to the event. I couldn’t have gotten more laughs if I’d brought along a comedian. The hoots and gibes I got. BUT once they got over their surprise, it garnered positive reviews. So with that in mind, I took along an English Sparkling Rosè with me to the US Winebloggers conference. I couldn’t have gotten a more different reception. As soon as I popped open the first cork, they were all over it. It seemed everyone had heard of English sparkling and were dying to try it out. No hoots of derisions or disbelief from my American compatriots. Everyone loved it. Michael Wangbickler of Cavemanwines commented on how well made it was and an enjoyable tipple. The fact that it was a hot, sunny afternoon by the pool probably helped nudge people along to a cool, refreshing sparkler. I had taken along the ’05 Balfour English Sparkling Brut Rosè. An award winning sparkler from the Hush Heath Estate in Kent. Made from the classic champagne blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. According to Hush Heath, Balfour is the only UK vineyard dedicated to producing sparkling rosè.  Richard Balfour Lynn, the owner has stated his aim is to set out with “the vision of creating a uniquely memorable experience. Balfour is light, entertaining and fun, and more importantly, it knocks the socks off many French Champagnes.” Based on comments in California, it fulfilled all the above req’s. Light, lively, plenty of red fruits on the nose, strawberry, cherry, rapsberry, and the palate- fruity, crisp and dry. A lovely thirst quencher. Megan from came back for more and Oenophilus was another fan looking for seconds. Unfortunately, the last bottle was a bit too cold and turned into a slushy in the fridge but enough people got a taste from the first two. A big success at the US Winebloggers Conference, English sparkling is definitely winning fans...

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